SPRINGFIELD — Local leaders concerned that a hazardous waste cleanup plan could jeopardize the county’s drinking water have turned to Ohio lawmakers for help.
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said he is concerned about the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s recent decision to dig up barrels containing industrial waste at the Tremont City Barrel Fill and then rebury them on-site in a lined landfill instead of removing all of the hazardous waste as recommended by area leaders and the Ohio EPA.
Brown said he’s working with community leaders and has reached out to the U.S. EPA to better understand the plan and ensure it will protect the groundwater. “We need to make sure we get this right and that the best science wins out,” Brown said.
U.S. Reps. Steve Austria, R-Beavercreek, and Jim Jordan, R-Urbana, also said they are looking into the matter. And Springfield’s state Sen. Chris Widener, and state Reps. Bob Hackett and Ross McGregor have said they are concerned about the issue.
“From what we have learned so far, and we have much more to learn, we agree with the community and the Ohio EPA in that the job needs to be done right,” Jordan said.
Brown and Jordan’s comments came after Clark County and Springfield commissioners, German Twp. trustees as well as the Clark County Combined Health District commissioner, reached out to legislators last week to get the U.S. EPA’s decision reversed.
Area leaders and members of Citizens for Wise Approaches Toward Environmental Resources, a local group fighting for the cleanup at the barrel fill and landfill since 1983, called the cleanup option the U.S. EPA selected inadequate.
They said that while liquid waste will be removed under the estimated $28 million plan, solid waste will remain on-site and a landfill liner will be installed, but potentially pollute the aquifer that supplies water to more than 85,000 Clark County residents and some Montgomery County residents.
Blase Leven, CF/Water technical assistance adviser, said the U.S. EPA decision appears to be financially motivated because a landfill liner is not a permanent solution.
He said a liner could offer protection for 20 or 30 years, but would eventually fail.
“(Cost) seems like it’s a bigger factor than it should be,” Leven said.
“In the long-term, without future work more money would need to be spent. So if that’s correct, why not go for the something longer term because once the contaminants get away, it will be hard to stop them from contaminating the groundwater.”
The Ohio EPA and area leaders support an alternative plan that would reportedly costs an estimated $56.9 million. The nine companies that dumped waste there are responsible to pay the cleanup costs.
The more expensive plan calls for removing all of the waste and taking it to a licensed facility for treatment and disposal, and then reburying the nonhazardous solid waste at the barrel fill.
U.S. EPA officials defend their decision, saying they selected the best option — known as Alternative 9a — after evaluating nine criteria that included environmental and safety concerns and cost.
In documents responding to Ohio EPA concerns, federal officials admit that the option supported by area leaders — Alternative 4a/b — offers the more permanent solution, but only marginally.
“We believe that Alternative 9a is a permanent long-term effective remedial action with very little likelihood of failure,” wrote Joan Tanaka of the U.S. EPA.
Tanaka also stated the U.S. EPA’s preferred plan is “far more short-term protective” than the option area leaders support.
But option 4a is more expensive, would require more trips from the barrel fill and expose a greater number of people to the toxic waste for a longer period of time, she said.
The Tremont City Barrel Fill is an 8.5-acre section at the north end of the Tremont City Landfill in German Twp. that was used as a licensed hazardous waste dump from 1976 to 1979, according to the U.S. EPA.
About 51,000 drums and 300,000 gallons of industrial waste were buried about 15 to 25 feet deep and covered with soil, and there has been concern for decades that contaminants could leak into the aquifer used for the area’s drinking water because contaminants are just 10 feet from the aquifer, studies show.
Leven, CF/Water Chairman Jeff Briner and longtime CF/Water member Dr. Martin Cook said the cost estimates for both options are inaccurate and the estimate for option 4a are inflated compared to other landfill cleanups in the region.
The U.S. EPA last year approved option 4a, but reversed its decision after one of the nine companies required to pay for the cleanup presented a new solution that Briner said violates the EPA’s safety standards.
“I pray Brown, Austria and Jordan can make a difference by stepping in and getting this mitigated somehow,” Briner said.