EPA plan for Superfund site would see underground treatment, 20 year cleanup

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NORTH SMITHFIELD – Officials from the federal Environmental Protection Agency held a public hearing on their cleanup plan for a Superfund site Wednesday night, proposing remediation that will see the groundwater at a former landfill in town meeting standards in 55-119 years.

The agency presented an $11.7 million plan for “in situ,” or below ground treatment and sequestration of groundwater contaminants at a 36-acre parcel of land off of Old Oxford Road that are known to cause cancer. 

The site was once a sand and gravel pit, and was used for small-scale refuse disposal from 1927 to 1974.  In 1974, the lot was sold and developed into a large-scale disposal facility for commercial, municipal and industrial trash, accepting an estimated one million gallons of hazardous waste through 1985.

“Facility operations contaminated air, surface water and groundwater with hazardous chemicals,” according to the EPA. 

Owner Charles Wilson was ordered to remedy the site in 1988, and the landfill was capped, with measures put in place to limit access.

But ongoing testing of the groundwater has confirmed the presence of 1,4- dioxane, metals, tetrachloroethene and trichloroethene. Water bodies surrounding the site include Trout Brook, Trout Brook Pond and Slatersville Reservoir. 

Now, the agency has proposed a plan to treat groundwater migrating from the landfill, which they say will take two to three years to design and implement. 

On Wednesday, EPA officials outlined alternative cleanup methods and how potential treatments are evaluated, noting that another plan – dubbed Alternative 3 – would instead see the groundwater extracted, treated and then re-injected to the area. 

“We believe Alternative 3 is also a very suitable alternative,” said EPA New England Remedial Project Manager Hoshaiah Barczynski.

EPA’s preferred plan, however, is Alternative 4, which would use two technologies to treat and sequester the contaminants, and could begin over winter and into spring 2021.

A write-up of the plan notes that, “groundwater is estimated to achieve cleanup standards downgradient of the remedy within approximately 20 years, and throughout the site within approximately 55-119 years.”

“Alternative 4 is more readily implementable,” said Barczynski, noting that the approach requires no building construction or connection to power, and has a smaller ongoing environmental impact.

Some 36 people joined the public hearing, held via Skype, with many residents asking about plans for additional well testing. 

“We are not testing all wells in a one mile radius,” said Barcyznski, noting wells are regularly tested just downgradient from the site and the EPA has no plans to expand. “Hopefully, we won’t have to.”

“I think we have a handle on where it is,” added Barcyznski. “We can’t just drill in every single place based on the bedrock.”

“Looking further would not affect this remedy that we’re proposing,” she added.

During the public hearing portion of the meeting, only Town Administrator Gary Ezovski submitted comment for the record. 

“As much as we appreciate what is happening we also need to recognize the cumbersome circumstance that you have in managing this process,” said Ezovski, noting that the problem was first identified 2012. “It’s taken this long to go through the process.”

“My concern is simply to state, again, while we appreciate the effort, there is concern about the time it takes to put things in place,” Ezovski said. “We don’t have options for these folks who are nearby the landfill in terms of public supply.”

The EPA will be accepting public comments on the proposed cleanup plan through August 28, and is seeking input on all the alternatives and the rationale for the preferences. According to officials, “new information or arguments the lead agency learns during the public comment period could result in
the selection of a final remedial action that differs from the preferred alternative. You do not have to be a technical expert to comment.”

Comments can be sent by mail, email, or fax, or given orally via a dedicated voicemail box by calling (617) 918-1910. The complete proposal, and information on how to submit commentary can be found here.

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