Local leaders have fought for decades to get a proper clean-up at the Tremont City Barrel Fill site in northern Clark County — which they worry could seep into Springfield’s drinking water supply — including hand-delivering a letter to President Barack Obama’s staff during his visit to the city in 2012.
A local activist group is hosting a meeting Wednesday to discuss the future of the proposed clean up at the hazardous waste site.
Here’s a look at what’s really going on at the barrel fill site:
What is it?: The barrel fill, located at 3108 Snyder Domer Road, about 3 miles northwest of Springfield, is an 8.5-acre section of a closed landfill that had been used for industrial waste barrels.
It contains an estimated 1.5 million gallons of hazardous waste buried in the ground.
If left in its current state, the site could be a risk to public health decades from now because the barrels could deteriorate and some of the chemicals leach into the area’s sole-source aquifer, which could affect the water of up to 80,000 people, officials have said.
What’s in the barrel fill?: A chemical landfill permit was issued by the Ohio EPA in 1976. Over the next three years, about 51,500 drums and around 300,000 gallons of industrial waste were disposed of in 50 waste cells about 15 to 20 feet deep, according to the community involvement plan.
The waste included glues, resins, paint sludge, paint scraps, soap, shampoo, detergent, asbestos, oils and other industrial compounds. Food industry sources also disposed of items such as margarine and corn syrup.
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.
What’s being done about it?: Community members and local leaders have long implored the U.S. EPA to remove all hazardous waste from the barrel fill.
The U.S. EPA was expected to move forward with a $56 million plan, Alternative 4a, to remove all hazardous waste from the barrel fill.
However, in 2011, the federal agency issued its final decision, the $28 million Alternative 9a, which called for barrels containing industrial waste to be dug up and then reburied on-site in a lined landfill.
During the public comment period, Waste Management, a potentially responsible party, proposed the new alternative, according to the U.S. EPA’s Community Involvement Plan released in 2015. Officials and local citizens have fought for years to have the clean-up plan reverted back to Alternative 4a.
Since that time, a modified version of Alternative 9a was introduced and estimated to cost about $24 million. After years of arguing over whether an extensive, $56 million cleanup plan will do the job, support is growing locally for a new plan that would cost an estimated $24 million due to concerns the clean-up may not move forward at all.
The current U.S. EPA cleanup plan calls for digging up all of the barrels, taking out the ones with liquid waste and putting the barrels filled with solid waste back in place with the addition of a double liner and leak detection.
Both Alternatives 4a and 9a include fencing and signs placed around the site, institutional controls such as prohibiting certain future land uses and the use of site groundwater, long-term groundwater monitoring and contingency planning in case officials must take action if unexpected conditions occur, according to a community involvement plan completed by the U.S. EPA in 2015.
The site was being addressed through the EPA’s Superfund Alternative program, but the EPA no longer considers the site to be a candidate for that program, according to the EPA’s website. The federal agency has asked Ohio to agree to place the site on the National Priorities List, which would allow it to become a Superfund site.
A $10,000 report by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers evaluated additional cleanup measures at the site, including a recommendation to add a stabilizing agent to hazardous wastes reburied in the lined barrel fill at a cost of about $1.5 million. Another report completed last year by U.S. EPA consultant Tetra Tech recommended removal of nearly 1,000 barrels, described as “the worst of the worst.” Neither report has yet to be included in a proposed clean-up plan.
What’s next?: On March 23, the U.S. EPA met with a group of local leaders at the Clark County Health District Office. The message about next steps for the Barrel Fill was clear: The community is at a crossroads for the Barrel Fill cleanup either to move forward or to be at risk of no further action for the next several years, according to minutes from the meeting collected by local water activists, People for Safe Water.
People for Safe Water, a group of local activists, will be hosting a public information meeting from 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday at the City Hall Forum, 76 E. High St. The meeting will includes leaders from Springfield and Clark County and will discuss community choices in the process, as well as who will make the decisions about if and how the site will be cleaned up.
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