EPA: Tremont City barrel fill on track to begin cleanup

Testing this year shows no waste migrating off hazardous site that’s near aquifer.

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

Cleanup of millions of gallons of potentially toxic waste located near an aquifer in Tremont City that provides drinking water to tens of thousands of area residents is on track to begin in late 2025 or early 2026, the United States Environmental Protection Agency told the community on Monday.

Jenny Polster, the EPA remedial project manager, said during a Tremont City village council meeting Monday night workers are now in the early phases of engineering a remedial design, and cleanup is expected to begin in late 2025 or sometime in 2026. She said testing performed this summer found that no waste is migrating off site and contaminating area groundwater.

The process began this summer, with the pre-design or planning process beginning the week of June 19. A team bored holes into the ground in several areas to find out exactly where the barrels are to avoid digging into them and to evaluate the soil to see how it can be reused.

The 8.5-acre Tremont City Barrel Fill site in German Twp. — at 3108 Snyder Domer Road — is a closed industrial waste landfill. During operations from 1976 to 1979, it’s estimated about 51,500 drums and 300,000 gallons of industrial liquid waste were disposed of at the site, which threatens a nearby aquifer.

The site contains an estimated 1.5 million gallons of hazardous waste buried in the ground.

Residents have fought for decades to clean up the site.

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

The disposal stopped in 1980, and soil was later placed on top of the waste cells. Seventeen years later, the U.S. EPA began an investigation into the barrel fill and found some leaks from waste cells. An investigation by the potentially responsible parties in 2005 found most of the waste cells were intact, but showed high levels of contaminants at the barrel fill site.

Contaminants include elevated levels of volatile organic compounds, such as xylenes, ethylbenzene, toluene and methylene chloride. Metals such as chromium and arsenic were also detected in the liquid and solid waste.

In October 2022, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio approved a cleanup plan after it granted the motion to approve a consent decree signed in April 2022 by all parties to begin the process of cleaning up the landfill.

In the court order, all responsible companies said they acknowledged they have waste in the landfill and are responsible for the chemicals. They entered into the federal agreement — a Superfund Alternative Approach Agreement — and signed the decree that they will clean it up and shoulder some of the financial burden to do so.

The work done over the summer and future work will help workers figure out what they need to build, how best to pull the barrels out and more, Bob Rule, the representative for the potentially responsible parties said in June. He said one of the first steps will be evaluating utilities in the area in the area to make sure workers don’t dig up or drill through phone lines or anything like that.

Rule said then that at the site, workers will analyze existing water quality monitoring wells for efficacy, and stop use of ones that are damaged or have been open to the elements. New wells will be built as needed and the potentially responsible parties, with the oversight of the EPA, will monitor the area’s water quality in perpetuity.

The removal will involve carting off liquid waste and some soil, and building a new barrel fill as barrels are removed to be put back in. The new home for the barrels will be a modified double liner consolidation cell, the most protective the EPA can require.

“It’s a very minimal amount of (liquid) waste that’s going to be shipped off are what our projections are right now,” Polster said.

She also said, based on the plan’s stated goal, “It said the remedy will remove and prevent the risk of future contamination posed by the mobile liquid waste by creating redundant barriers that prohibit infiltration of water and migration of the waste.”

The EPA is working with Tremont City to decide a route for commercial trucks carrying waste, as the village recently banned commercial trucks carrying more than five tons, citing safety concerns unrelated to the barrel fill.

A remedial design work plan, or a plan that will describe what specifically will be done to clean up the barrel fill, will likely be made in winter 2024, Polster said.

The EPA posts monthly updates and other information regarding the project on its website.

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