Army Corps to study Tremont City barrel fill

A final draft of the Tremont City Barrel Fill report from the Army Corps is expected to be completed later this month, according to the U.S. EPA.

“The good news is that they haven’t moved forward with the plan that’s unacceptable to the community,” City Commissioner Karen Duncan said. “It’s a matter that impacts us significantly in the long-term.”

The barrel fill is an 8.5-acre section of a closed landfill for industrial waste barrels that contains an estimated 1.5 million gallons of hazardous waste buried in the ground. From 1976-79, 51,500 drums and 300,000 gallons of industrial waste were disposed in unlined pits at the barrel fill.

The Army Corps will “evaluate any additional remedial measures to the existing remedy that could potentially add to long-term effectiveness and address community concerns about the remedy,” the U.S. EPA wrote in an e-mail to the News-Sun.

By taking a further look at the cleanup plan, the U.S. EPA Region 5 understands something has to change, said Marilyn Welker, president of People for Safe Water, a local lobbying group. They’re hoping to have public input into the Army Corps process, she said, and wrote letters to both U.S. EPA Region 5 Acting Administrator Robert Kaplan and Ohio EPA Director Craig Butler.

“We don’t just mean People for Safe Water, we mean the entire community,” Welker said.

Last October, a group of nine state and local officials traveled to Chicago to discuss with the U.S. EPA the future of the cleanup.

State officials have yet to support the U.S. EPA’s desire to place the Tremont City Barrel Fill on the National Priorities List, which would allow for federal and state money to be used for a cleanup. The U.S. EPA must have agreement from the Ohio EPA before the site can be listed on the NPL.

In a more than two-hour meeting in August at Northwestern High School attended by more than 650 people, the community implored the U.S. EPA to remove all hazardous waste from the barrel fill.

All local agencies want the hazardous waste removed from the site near Springfield’s sole source drinking water aquifer, which comes with a $56 million price tag. But the U.S. EPA has ruled in favor of a different Superfund cleanup plan that will cost about $24 million.

With the drinking water situation in Flint, Mich., and other areas, Duncan said, the U.S. EPA is currently reacting to problems, rather than being proactive — which is what needs to happen for the barrel fill to be cleaned up properly.

“They’re so busy putting out fires that are crises at the moment, like Flint, that we keep getting shoved on the back burner,” Duncan said.

However, Welker believes with Region 5 being placed in the spotlight, it leads to more accountability.

“That’s where we hope something is changing,” Welker said.

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