EPA favors excavation, transport of Barrel Fill waste

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency already has an idea it favors, according to information recently provided by the agency.

To address some 300,000 gallons of industrial waste buried in the barrel fill, the EPA wants to implement a $56.9 million plan that would excavate waste and transport off-site for treatment and disposal and establish an on-site solid waste cell for nonhazardous solid waste.

The final plan, which will be decided on by the agency in the coming months, will not affect the adjacent Tremont City Landfill because the two sites are considered separate issues.

The public has until July 12 to agree to the plan, suggest alternatives or otherwise make comments.

Jeff Briner, chairman of the local grass-roots group Citizens for Wise Action Toward Environmental Resources (CF/WATER) said the EPA is one step closer to cleaning up the site.

“It’s actually a very big thing,” Briner said, noting the EPA had been working with the group on the barrel fill alone for almost eight years.

Dr. Martin Cook, a 93-year-old member of CF/WATER, gives founder Laura Kaffenbarger full credit for starting the battle to rid the barrel fill and the landfill of its potentially toxic waste.

Over the years, the group has spent more than $850,000 from fundraising efforts and donations, Cook said.

Officials say there’s no immediate danger from the barrel fill, but the EPA’s study found “elevated risk to human health from future ground water contaminants leaking into the surface water.”

Norman Carl, a chemist who worked for Montgomery County Environmental Laboratory before a stroke 15 years ago, has always been concerned about Chapman Creek, which flows near the landfill and barrel fill sites.

Carl, 60, became involved with studying the toxins at the sites on his own and is a vocal supporter of cleaning up the sites.

He said he suggested to county officials 25 years ago that the sites should be designated as hazardous.

“I feel vindicated,” he said. “Here we are after 25 years.”

Barrel Fill history

In the late 1990s, the EPA identified 75 companies that used the barrel fill between 1976 and 1979, but by then many of the companies were defunct.

Ultimately, 21 companies — with eight of them involved on a day-to-day basis — signed an agreement with the EPA in 2002 to complete and financially support an investigation and feasibility study.

The eight companies that make up the Responsible Environmental Solutions Alliance (RESA) are Delphi Automotive Systems, Franklin International, Motors Liquidation Co. (the successor to General Motors Corp.) International Paper Co., Procter & Gamble, PPG Industries, Strebor Inc. and Worthington Cylinder Corp., said Beth Mehlberth, RESA community outreach coordinator.

To date, RESA has spent about $8 million on investigation and study of the landfill, she said.

The plans were developed by RESA’s consulting firm Haley & Aldrich, Inc. Cost of implementation of the courses of action range from $7 million to $60 million.

Mehlberth and Dave Hagen, senior vice president of Haley and Aldrich, said in previous interviews that the companies, not taxpayers, that would fund the plans.

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