Clark County commissioners agreed to support a modified cleanup at the Tremont City Barrel Fill, the first government entity to back the plan that would leave some of the hazardous waste buried on site.
Commissioners voted unanimously to approve a resolution of support Wednesday morning.
Local leaders and activists were told to accept a reduced cleanup of the hazardous waste dump they’ve long feared could seep into Springfield’s drinking water supply or risk nothing happening at the site for years, County Commissioner Rick Lohnes said.
“It’s time for the community to get behind the offer,” Lohnes said.
The community has fought for decades to get a thorough cleanup at the closed Tremont City Barrel Fill site in northern Clark County that contains 1.5 million gallons of industrial waste barrels. The barrels were buried at the 8.5-acre section of a closed landfill between 1976 and 1978.
Community members and local leaders have pushed the U.S. EPA to remove all hazardous waste from the site. The U.S. EPA was expected to move forward with a $56 million plan to remove all hazardous waste from the site.
However in 2011 the federal agency decided to pursue a $28 million plan that calls for barrels containing liquids to be removed and ones with solid waste to be dug up and then reburied on-site in a lined landfill.
Since then, a modified version of that cheaper plan was introduced and estimated to cost about $24 million. It also includes a double liner, leak detection system and possibly removing some of the barrels that include the worst chemicals.
“The perfect option would be to dig it all up, truck it out, excavate the entire thing and fill it back up with dirt,” Lohnes said. “That’s not going to happen … It’s time for people to officially support the modified plan.”
State Rep. Kyle Koehler, R-Springfield, fears that if the plan is rejected by local leaders, the manufacturers who put waste there will walk away and the county will be left with nothing cleaned up.
“Right now, we have someone who is liable for what happens when we start digging that up,” Koehler said. “If we keep pushing and we try to dig it up on our own or do some of the other things that have been suggested, we’re going to be liable … It’s important that we move forward and get it done as soon as possible. It needs to be done while everybody is still at the table.”
The resolution says that if Clark County and Gov. John Kasich agree on the modified cleanup, the EPA will either propose the site to the National Priorities List, also called the Super Fund list, or the U.S. EPA will negotiate a consent decree with the responsible parties to clean it up.
County leaders must do something to kick start the process, County Commissioner Lowell McGlothin said.
“It’s been 30 years,” he said. “I agree to move forward at this point.”
When County Commissioner Melanie Flax Wilt first decided to tell her grandfather, former County Commissioner Gordon Flax, she was running for the same office, he told her to do something about the barrel fill, she said.
“It’s time that we move forward so that we’re not sitting here 37 years from now,” Flax Wilt said. “This will never be utopia. The search for utopia is over. It’s time to find some reasonable, pragmatic solution to clean this up.”
More than 60 German Twp. residents attended a meeting with trustees and other local leaders last week that updated the community about recent developments at the barrel fill, 3108 Snyder Domer Road. German Twp. trustees are expected to finalize their decision in the coming weeks, Trustee Greg Kaffenbarger said.
Springfield City Commissioner Kevin O’Neill believes the community should continue to fight for the more extensive remediation.
He hopes to raise money to remove all of the hazardous waste, which officials say could cost another $13 million to $15 million. The price tag will be insignificant if the city’s well fields became contaminated, he said.
The community still has other options it should consider, like hiring outside legal counsel, he said.
“I still think my solution is the only solution,” O’Neill said. “What we’re trying to do is make sure our big thing is that the well fields don’t become contaminated. That’s why I’m pushing for everything removed.”
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