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Group to meet with EPA consultant on barrel fill

A grassroots group battling the proposed clean-up plan at the Tremont City Barrel Fill site will meet with a federal consultant at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the city hall forum, 76 E. High St.

Joseph McMahon of Denver-based Collaborative Processes, Inc., has been hired to serve as a third-party consultant between the United States Environmental Protection Agency and local stakeholders concerning the barrel fill’s clean-up plan. The goal is to “improve communication and ensure that various viewpoints are heard and understood,” according to Josh Singer, a spokesperson for the U.S. EPA Region 5.

McMahon is expected to make recommendations to the U.S. EPA “regarding community outreach.” The U.S. EPA will spend approximately $20,000 in public money on McMahon’s services, according to Singer.

All local agencies want the barrels removed from the site, but the U.S. EPA has proposed a different clean-up plan: Dig up the barrels, add a liner and put them back in place.

McMahon will be meeting with other local stakeholders, including the Ohio EPA and township officials, and will try to help improve communications about the site, according to the U.S. EPA. McMahon will also be meeting with potential responsible parties, according to Marilyn Welker, the president of People For Safe Water.

The agency will likely plan and schedule community meetings after receiving feedback from the consultant, Singer said.

Local officials have worked for years to change the proposed clean-up plan at the Tremont City Barrel Fill, an 8.5-acre section of a closed landfill for industrial waste barrels that contains approximately 1.5-million gallons of hazardous waste. Leaders and the citizen’s group believe the barrels are leaking from the site, which sits near the area’s sole source aquifer.

Rainwater draining through the barrels could eventually contaminate the county’s drinking water and pose a risk to public health decades from now, officials said.

The forum will allow People For Safe Water to underscore its message: The current clean-up plan is unacceptable.

“We know that there is a desire to create a collaborative process,” Welker said. “We want to make it very clear that if we put the safety and the purity of our water supply at the center of this, this is not a situation of compromise and collaboration, given where we are.

“The plan that’s currently on the table has so compromised what we think are safe clean-up procedures.”

In 2010, area leaders believed the U.S. EPA would adopt the $56 million plan, Alternative 4a, which would remove all waste from the site. However, in 2011, the U.S. EPA issued its current final decision, Alternative 9a, which will cost approximately $28 million. The barrels will be dug up and then reburied on-site in a lined landfill.

Three years later, officials are still hoping to have the plan reversed. In November of 2012, city and county leaders hand-delivered a letter to one of President Barack Obama’s aides during a campaign stop in November of 2012. They are still waiting on a response from the executive branch.

The site is currently being prepared for a proposal to the Superfund National Priorities List, which could take up to a year, according to Welker. Last year, the EPA took samples of surface water, sediment and soil around the barrel fill site as part of the proposal. The results have been returned, but a final report is pending, Singer said in an e-mail.

If the site is eligible, it could be proposed at an upcoming rulemaking meeting later this year, Singer said.

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