Clark County Superfund site: Federal deal reached in cleanup of Tremont City Barrel Fill

A federal agreement has been reached in the planned $26 million cleanup of thousands of gallons of toxins from the Tremont City Barrel Fill after years of work by local officials and citizen activists.

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio approved the cleanup plan this week after it granted the motion to approve a consent decree signed in April by all parties to begin the process of cleaning up the landfill.

“It’s a great benchmark for us in the long history of work to get done to clean this up,” said Clark County Health Commissioner Charlie Patterson.

In the court order, all responsible companies said they acknowledged they have waste in the landfill and are responsible for the chemicals. They entered into the federal agreement — a Superfund Alternative Approach Agreement — and signed the decree that they will clean it up.

If the companies fail to comply with the court order, they will be held in contempt of court.

Patterson said he is confident the responsible companies will hold up their agreement.

“We have great faith that the companies entered into this consent decree with good faith and have every intention of meeting the deadlines and doing this properly,” he said.

The consent decree will place some of the financial burden of the estimated $26 million cleanup on the companies deemed responsible for dumping thousands of gallons of chemicals in the area decades ago.

Approximately 51,500 drums and about 300,000 gallons of industrial liquid chemicals were disposed of in waste cells between 1976 and 1979 at the site, according to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

ExplorePrevious: Process to cleanup Tremont City Barrell Fill moves forward, removal of waste to start in 2025

The cleanup process had been in a state of limbo since 2019 as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Justice began negotiations with the potential responsible parties.

Residents have fought for years to get the site cleaned up. The concern is that toxic waste may have seeped into the Buried Valley Aquifer and could impact local drinking water or continue to seep into the ground if not addressed. Those concerns led to the formation of the group People for Safe Water.

Larry Ricketts, who is a part of People for Safe Water, said members are thrilled to finally get to this point since it’s been a long time coming.

“It was important we got this consent decree signed off by the judge,” he said. “Now comes the really tough part, believe it or not, and that is the design phase on how the actual clean up is going to proceed.”

Ricketts said the group has been one of the strongest advocates to keep this in front of everyone for it to move forward.

“It’s a very small group of people, but very dedicated people, but we’ve just been the non-governmental entity that has worked on this for the people of Clark County,” he said.

ExplorePrevious: Cleanup of Tremont Barrel Fill could start in 2025

The cleanup plan involves digging up containers with thousands of gallons of toxins. The liquid waste would be removed from those containers, classified and sent off-site, while the solid waste would remain and be repackaged and reburied in a double-lined pit. That location would then be capped, and nearby groundwater would be monitored to detect any leaks.

“The idea is that we really can’t wait for this. We can’t just leave it there for 50 to 100 years and hope it doesn’t leak. We have to take proactive measures,” Ricketts said.

Although officials and the community wanted all of the waste to be removed, this agreement was a compromise among all parties. Some waste will remain in the community, but Patterson said they understand it will soon get to a point where citizens and the water supply will be safe.

Patterson said to expect a meeting with the EPA this month or in November on the next steps. They still have to figure out a more technical plan, which could take up to two years, on how to do everything safely, such as digging the waste up, characterizing it, storing it, shipping it off-site and putting part of it back in the ground.

“My job is to make sure the health of the community is not negatively affected by the outcome,” he said. “We still have to continue to watch this and make sure the plan that is decided on is implemented with the utmost safety.”

The barrel fill is in an 8.5-acre portion of a closed landfill at 3108 Snyder Domer Road in German Twp., about 1.5 miles west of Tremont City and 3.5 miles northwest of Springfield.

Some of the wastes included glues, resins, paint sludge, paint scrap, soap, shampoo, detergents, asbestos, slurry, food wastes, caustic waste, oils and still bottoms (residues from distillation processes such as oil refining and solvent recycling), according to the court order.

“An EPA investigation revealed the waste seeped into, and contaminated, the surrounding soil and local water sources,” the court document stated.

About the Author