Officials, residents seek action on hazardous waste removal from Tremont Barrel Fill site

Plans to remove toxic waste from an old Clark County landfill site remain on hold as nearby residents and local officials wait for a consent decree to be signed in order for that work to move forward.

Members of People for Safe Water and Clark County Combined Health District Commissioner Charles Patterson discussed the status of the cleanup of the Tremont Barrel Fill site during a Springfield City Commission work session Tuesday.

The issue is that there has not been an update from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regarding when a consent decree would be finalized. The decree would be between a list of companies who would be included in the roughly $27 to $28 million cleanup.

There is also concern that some of those companies involved in signing the consent decree, which would allow for development of a more detailed removal plan, might be further prolonging the process.

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“If we do not have the consent decree, we cannot even start looking for contractors who are going to do that initial planning work,” Patterson said.

The barrel fill, at 3108 Snyder Domer Road, is an 8.5-acre section of a closed landfill that had been used for industrial waste barrels. It is located near an aquifer that provides drinking water for tens of thousands of area residents.

But the problem is that process related to getting the consent agreement signed started in the end of 2019 and was suppose to take at least 6 months. However, it still has not been resolved and can delay the actual removal of waste by a number of years.

If a consent decree had been reached around that timeframe, work on the more detailed plan could have started by the end of 2021.

Two members of the group People for Safe Water as well as Patterson updated Springfield commissioners on the situation.

People for Safe Water has been advocating for removal of toxic waste from the site for years.

Patterson expressed concern Tuesday that they have not been given more information by the EPA regarding the status of the consent decree process. He said that includes not receiving an updated timeline as to when it would be signed or when work related to the removal of waste would began.

If the consent decree is not signed, the EPA would have to take a different approach with the parties responsible for the cleanup, Patterson said. That would involve regulatory action.

Patterson added that representatives of the EPA have said that they could not comment further on the situation due to ongoing negotiations with the parties that would be involved in the cleanup.

The barrel fill has been there for decades and contains an estimated 1.5 million gallons of hazardous waste buried in the ground.

However, the concern is that waste could seep out and contaminate drinking water in the future if some of that waste is not removed and facilities at the site are not updated.

“The biggest concern is that we do not know what is happening underground right now,” said State Rep. Kyle Koehler, R-Springfield.

Koehler attended the meeting Tuesday. He told the News-Sun that if the barrels eventually do leak it could cause serious issues for not just Springfield and Clark County, but anybody that has access to that water.

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The rough plans for the clean up effort include removing drums from the site and shipping liquid waste discovered off-site to special locations for disposal.

The solids that remain will be dug up and reburied on site in a double-lined landfill. The site will then be capped and groundwater will be monitored to detect any leaks.

Koehler said that officials had initially been hoping for a more extensive plan that would have removed all hazardous waste from the site.

However, several companies expected to be involved with the cleanup proposed the less expensive alternative plan that ultimately moved forward.

“All of our local officials, at the county, city, township and state level, everybody has always been on board with this,“ said Larry Ricketts, who is with People for Safe Water. “Everybody has been very supportive of this. That is not the problem. The problem is that is has to be addressed at that next level up.”

Springfield City Manager Bryan Heck said Tuesday he will lead efforts on behalf of the city to reexamine its approach in regards to getting the cleanup project finalized.

That would also include efforts to form a coalition with local groups and officials.

By the numbers

$28M: Expected cost to clean up Tremont Barrel Fill site

1.5: Estimated millions of gallons of waste at the site

8.5: Size of barrel fill in acres

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