EPA proposes $22.6M plan to reduce arsenic, lead exposures, clean up former DuPont industrial site

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has opened up a 60-day public comment period for a proposed $22.6 million plan to clean up and mitigate exposures at the former DuPont industrial site. Contaminated soil and arsenic-polluted groundwater are among the major concerns at the 440-acre former DuPont site at 5215 Kennedy Ave., which was used to manufacture chemicals for more than a century and now is home to a solid waste landfill. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s clean-up plan includes removing more than 61,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil, installing a 1-foot-thick permeable soil cover, treating groundwater, fencing and compliance with industrial zoning requirements and receiving financial assurances from the site owner, the Chemours Co. The clean-up plan addresses the site’s western 265-acre portion, which consists of a solid waste landfill, former industrial property available for redevelopment, and leased industrial property, records show. A public meeting is set for 5:30 p.m. Jan. 10 at the East Chicago Pastrick Branch Library, where EPA will present the proposed plan, answer questions and take comments. The comment period will close on 26 January. EPA contends the clean-up plan is adequate to protect human health both on and off-site with a 30-year monitoring program and the excavation of contaminated soil hot spots with arsenic concentrations above 1,000 parts per million to reduce groundwater contamination. A significant amount of contaminated soil would be removed, treated and managed at the on-site landfill, according to EPA documents. Debbie Chizewer, an attorney at Northwestern University Pritzker Law School’s Environmental Law Clinic working pro bono on behalf of residents of the nearby USS Lead Superfund site, said the legal team plans to file public comments on behalf of the resident-led Community Advisory Group. Chizewer said EPA’s Statement of Basis for its clean-up plan lacks documentation to back up the agency’s claims that planned institutional controls will protect residents living adjacent to the DuPont site. “We do not have enough info at this point to evaluate whether the plan is appropriate,” she said. “We are left with lots of questions until the underlying documents are provided.” The site has been listed as a hazardous waste site under EPA’s Resource Conservation and Recovery Act program, also called RCRA, since 1997 when the company entered into a correction action agreement with the federal agency to investigate the nature and extent of hazardous waste being released on site. EPA plans to use an “enhanced sulfate reduction bio-barrier (composed) of a trench” backfilled with materials “required to stimulate microbial sulfate reduction and chemically trap arsenic near the Grand Calumet River” to reduce arsenic migrating beyond the southern property boundary. The eastern portion, which contains a natural area and “buffer zone,” is being handled under a separate long-term monitoring program, according to the EPA. The southern section of the developed area was used to manufacture chemicals, while the northwest and northeastern edge was used to manage waste. Given the length and extent of the company’s manufacturing activities, the importance of institutional controls to “protect construction, utility, and maintenance workers” is underscored by the possibility that “some underground piping was not identified or encountered” during facility investigations, according to EPA documents. The EPA’s Resource Conservation and Recovery Act program differs from the agency’s Superfund clean-up program in that the RCRA aims to manage solid and hazardous waste facilities still operating. The agency’s Superfund program targets contaminated, abandoned industrial sites in which EPA often sues past polluters to cover the cost of clean-up. The former DuPont site could be a source of groundwater contamination in the USS Lead Superfund site, where a separate EPA clean-up of contaminated residential yards is underway. As part of the EPA’s involvement in the Superfund site, the agency is investigating basement flooding issues and the potential for groundwater contamination in basements and homes. An east-west trending groundwater divide resulting from a groundwater mound runs through the facility, according to EPA documents. Groundwater on the north side of the divide flows north toward Riley Park, but according to the EPA, “previous RCRA investigations found no unacceptable risks to the Riley Park residents from exposure to groundwater in sumps.” A city spokesperson lauded the EPA’s efforts to clean up the neglected property, calling it “another step in the right direction in cleaning up and making East Chicago a more habitable, desirable place in which to live and work.” In a statement, Mayor Anthony Copeland commented on the city’s plans for the DuPont site. “It would be premature to discuss specific plans, but as it has done with property like the former Blaw Knox site, we plan on developing the DuPont property into a viable tax revenue-producing property and that all (TIF) dollars collected be used exclusively for Calumet Area Development,” he said. In a news release, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said the proposed plan “further demonstrates EPA’s commitment to finding solutions to protect the health and safety of East Chicago residents.”

NWI Times, 30 November 2017 ; http://www.nwitimes.com