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Federal, local officials continue cleanup fight

Clark County leaders critical of hazardous materials plan.

Area government officials will continue to work with federal legislators on efforts to change the planned $28 million cleanup at a toxic waste dump in northwestern Clark County.

Speaker of the House John Boehner recently joined local and state leaders in questioning the U.S. EPA’s plan to clean up 1.5 million gallons of hazardous waste buried at the Tremont City Barrel Fill. In May, Boehner sent a letter to Susan Hedman, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 5 administrator, asking for answers on the decision to change the cleanup plan.

Last month, Boehner received a response from Hedman, who wrote the cleanup effort will “prevent waste” from contaminating Springfield’s aquifer. She also wrote the EPA “addressed all public comments” before selecting the new cleanup plan.

Boehner then sent the letter to City Manager Jim Bodenmiller, asking that he follow up with field representatives on how to proceed.

“We’ll continue to press for what we think is the best alternative,” Bodenmiller said.

In September 2011, the U.S. EPA released its plan to dig up the barrels and then rebury them on site in a lined landfill, rather than permanently removing all of the waste as recommended by the Ohio EPA and local leaders. The U.S. EPA plan is estimated to cost half of the more extensive cleanup and removal plan, which has a $56 million estimate.

Local leaders and environmental groups have fought for years to have the more extensive plan restored at the barrel fill — an 8.5-acre section of a closed, unlined landfill for industrial waste barrels that sits near the area’s drinking water aquifer —but have stepped up their efforts in recent months.

Last November, a letter was hand-delivered to President Obama’s aides during his campaign stop at Springfield High School. The letter, written by Clark County Health Commissioner Charles Patterson, stated “a lack of due process” in changing the site plan and implored the president to intervene. Officials are still waiting to hear back from the executive branch.

Locals believe that, if left in its current state, the site could be hazardous to public health. Rainwater draining through the unlined barrel fill and containment pools could eventually contaminate the area’s aquifer, which serves more than 80,000 customers in Clark and surrounding counties, according to U.S. EPA reports.

Surface water, soil and sediments in and around the site were sampled in and around the site by the U.S. EPA in April. The negotiation process for the site is ongoing, according to the U.S. EPA’s website.

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