Tremont City landfill cleanup plan questioned

State official says federal plan unlike any other Superfund site.

A key scientist with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency said Monday he can’t find another site in the nation that’s been cleaned up the way the federal government is now proposing to clean up a toxic waste dump near Springfield’s water supply.

The U.S. EPA would remove liquid waste but leave behind solid waste at the Tremont City Barrel Fill — a turnabout that has officials and residents concerned that the aquifer that serves as the sole source of water for 82,000 people would still be at risk of contamination.

Mark Allen, of the Ohio EPA, told the Springfield Rotary Club there’s no precedent for what the U.S. EPA wants to do at the Clark County site designated a Superfund Alternative Site.

The federal government would, in a sense, use the Tremont City site to establish the precedent, he said.

“They want to be able to point at this site and say, ‘We’ve done it here before,’” Allen said.

Between 1976 and 1979, about 51,500 drums and 300,000 gallons of industrial waste were disposed of within an 8.5-acre section of a closed, unlined Tremont City landfill.

The U.S. EPA in 2010 released a plan to permanently remove all hazardous waste from the site, a move that apparently seemed to satisfy most groups involved except Waste Management, the company that’s on the hook for half of the site’s cleanup.

During the public commenting period for the plan, Waste Management submitted two new proposals for the site, Allen said, and the U.S. EPA adopted one of them.

The controversial new plan, released in 2011, removes only liquid waste, crushing and reburying empty drums and solid hazardous waste onsite in a lined landfill.

“The bad stuff remains, and we are sitting ducks,” said Marilyn Welker, president of the citizens group People for Safe Water, who attended Monday’s program.

Speaker of the House John Boehner, who represents Clark County in Congress, this year questioned the new U.S. EPA plan.

That revised plan could cost $28 million, a far cry from the estimated $56 million price tag attached to the original remedy — which itself was exaggerated, according to Allen.

“The remedy the community favors shouldn’t cost as much as it is currently being advertised,” he said.

Allen, who’s twice pitched the state’s position of a permanent fix for Tremont City to the U.S. EPA’s National Remedy Review Board, cited the cleanup of the much messier Valleycrest Landfill in Dayton, which he portrayed as the Wild West of toxic dumping grounds in the early 1970s.

An EPA Superfund site where drums were dumped and haphazardly thrown in, Valleycrest was finally cleaned up in 2002 for $33 million, he said.

Many of the barrels at Tremont City, which initially were lowered into the ground one by one, have yet to rupture, he said.

“We need to resolve cost issues,” Allen said.

While the U.S. EPA has rendered its decision final, work is far from starting and more soil samples were taken this year, according to Welker, suggesting an internal debate at the federal level.

“We are what we drink,” she said. “If we’re drinking chemicals, we’re being polluted.”

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