The city of Springfield will back a $24 million, reduced clean-up plan at the Tremont City Barrel Fill, but one city commissioner says he won’t stop fighting for what he called full protection for the local drinking water.
Springfield city commissioners unanimously passed a resolution backing the cleanup Wednesday, becoming the second local government to agree to the plan at the closed dump that has 1.5 million gallons of hazardous industrial waste stored in buried barrels. Clark County commissioners passed a similar resolution last month.
“It’s a yes, but it’s a reluctant yes,” Springfield Mayor Warren Copeland said.
Local leaders and activists were told earlier this year to accept the modified cleanup of the hazardous waste dump they’ve long feared could seep into Springfield’s drinking water supply or risk nothing happening for years.
“Nothing can be done if you don’t start the process,” Springfield City Commissioner Joyce Chilton said.
The community has fought for decades to get a thorough cleanup. The barrels were buried at the 8.5-acre section of the 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.
In recent months, Springfield City Commissioner Kevin O’Neill has told commissioners he believes the community should continue to fight for the more extensive remediation. He voted for the resolution because it will get the process started but said the new plan falls short of what the community expects.
“I’m hanging my hat that this is going to be fixed properly,” he said. “I’m not going to quit trying to avail the process of removing it all once the process starts.”
He hopes to raise money to remove all of the hazardous waste, which has been estimated to cost another $13 million to $15 million. The price tag will be insignificant if the city’s well fields became contaminated, O’Neill has said.
“The community deserves the right to say yea or nay to that,” he said.
By not doing something, City Commissioner Dan Martin said Springfield runs the risk of getting a worse plan many years from now.
“(The process) would start from scratch,” he said.
It also makes sense for the city and other partners to hire an independent engineer to consult with the local governments during the cleanup, Martin said. If there are any corners being cut at the expense of public safety, he said an independent consultant could inform local leaders.
“We owe that to the community if we are going this route,” Martin said. “We need to make sure we have our own expert who can work with us and give us advice.”
The proclamations of support are the first step in getting the remediation started, Clark County Health Commissioner Charles Patterson said.
“We have many more steps to go,” he said. “We can’t do anything further until we get the ball rolling.”
People for Safe Water member Larry Ricketts wants the city to pass a separate resolution urging the barrel fill be placed on the National Priorities List, which would allow it to become a Superfund site. Gov. John Kasich must approve a community’s request before the listing is approved.
The city will likely hear legislation regarding the priority list at their next meeting, Copeland said. The U.S. EPA has assembled a task force to examine and possibly make changes to the Superfund program, which could be cut up to 25 percent as part of the upcoming federal budget.
“It behooves us to get on the National Priorities List so that we have that as a backup,” Ricketts said.
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By the Numbers
1.5 million: Gallons of hazardous waste stored in barrels buried underground at the Tremont City Barrel Fill, an 8.5-acre site in northern Clark County.
$56 million: Cost of clean-up plan Alternative 4a, which would remove all hazardous waste from the site.
$24 million: Cost of clean-up modified plan Alternative 9a, the U.S. EPA’s selected plan that includes digging up barrels, extracting the liquid waste and reburying the solid waste on site in a double-lined landfill.
Staying with the story
The Springfield News-Sun has written extensively about the proposed cleanup plan for the Tremont City Barrel Fill since it was first introduced in 2011, including stories digging into the costs and why local activists want all the hazardous waste removed.