EPA studies waterflow at former pesticide site
It says operator ‘couldn’t have picked a worse place’
The Herald-Mail USA TODAY NETWORK
In 2015, a federal Environmental Protection Agency official said operators of a former contaminated pesticide mixing site along Mitchell Avenue in Hagerstown “couldn’t have picked a worse place” to run it.
Bob Wallace, a remedial project manager for the EPA, said at the time that groundwater runs in all directions from the site.
In an attempt to track any contamination leaving the 19-acre property, remediation crews injected dye into sink holes on the property to determine where it might flow.
Wallace, who was among a number of EPA officials and others who gave an update of the cleanup of the site Tuesday, said dye showed up 2 miles to the east. It also appeared 4 miles to the west, 4 miles to the southwest and 3 miles to the north, said Wallace. But Wallace said previously that just because dye shows up at a location doesn’t mean it’s contaminated, and he said Tuesday that analysis continues on any possible threats to nearby groundwater supplies. He said the work will probably continue at least for another year.
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In the meantime, project officials have constructed a facility that treats groundwater at the old industrial site. It started operation in July and has treated about 5.4 million gallons of water, Wallace said.
When asked how long the plant might be needed to treat the groundwater, Wallace said it could be at least 30 years.
“This is like a forever Superfund site,” Wallace said.
Central Chemical Corp. blended agricultural pesticides and fertilizers at the site from the 1930s to the 1980s. Raw pesticides manufactured elsewhere were mixed at the site with inert materials to produce commercial-grade products.
Contaminants found in the soil, groundwater, surface water and sediment, as well as in the tissue of fish caught downstream from the site, include arsenic, lead, benzene, aldrin, chlordane, DDD, DDE, DDT, dieldrin and methoxychlor, according to the EPA.
In 1997, it was placed on a list for the federal Superfund program, which is designed to address abandoned hazardous materials sites.
Federal officials emphasize that no taxpayer money was used for the cleanup. Sixteen companies previously reached a $14.3 million settlement with the EPA and the state to do the work.
Although analysis on surrounding groundwater supplies continue, Wallace said Tuesday that he and his colleagues haven’t found anything that should concern nearby property owners with water wells.
“If there was something we saw, we would have alerted people,” he said.
There are about 2,100 water wells within a 5-mile radius of the property.
Project officials said Tuesday they have taken precautions to make sure no excessive amounts of dust drift from the site while the cleanup is ongoing. And they have gone door-to-door to distribute fact sheets about the operation and answer any questions people have.
Mitch Cron, another EPA remedial project manager at the site, said cleanup of a former waste lagoon, the biggest environmental threat on the property, is about halfway completed. He said the work has been complicated because the EPA and others involved in the cleanup had to devise the best way to deal with the waste, which involved lab tests.
They came up with a method of mixing the waste with cement, blast furnace slag and activated carbon. The result is a “concrete monolith” that will contain the waste and remain at the site, project officials said.
Other work to be completed involves removing contaminated soil and placing a cap over the site, both of which could take until 2024 to complete, Cron said.
He expects the property to be usable eventually.
“(The city of) Hagerstown has expressed an interest in using the site for light industrial and commercial uses,” Cron said.