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EPA admits PCB in Minden


The Register-Herald

MINDEN, W.Va.  — The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will host open public meetings at Glen Jean later this month to discuss results of PCB soil and water samples taken around Minden and Fayetteville in May and June, Acting Regional EPA Director Cecil Rodrigues said Thursday.

Minden, West Virginia is being tested again by the EPA for PCB contamination. In the 1980’s tests showed high levels of PCB, which some believe to have increased cancer for residents of the area.
(Register-Herald photo by Jenny Harnish)

Officials of the West Virginia Bureau for Public Health and federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) will be at the meeting to answer health-related questions, and West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) agents will also attend, said Rodrigues, an attorney who currently heads up the EPA Region 3 Office in Philadelphia.

“Our desire is to get the information out to as much of the public as we can and to be available to answer any specific questions they have, especially health concerns,” Rodrigues said.

Current test results show that, of 98 samples taken in Minden, four showed PCB contamination that is above the level of one part per million (1 ppm) that requires EPA action, agency officials said Thursday.

Of those samples, two were soil samples taken at private residences and measured 1.2 ppm and 1.3 ppm, while two sediment samples taken from Arbuckle Creek showed 50 ppm and 6.2 ppm. EPA agents conducted 41 soil samples and 25 sediment samples in Minden, along with water samples of Arbuckle Creek, agents reported Thursday.

Water samples showed no levels that present a risk, according to Rodrigues.

EPA agents shared results with property owners earlier this week.

Rodrigues said the contaminated Minden properties are rated as residential clean-up level, which triggers more investigation.

“Our next step is to do additional sampling to determine the extent of that contamination and to confirm the results of the sampling,” he said. “Then, after we have done that, we’ll determine what further steps need to be done.”

An EPA clean-up such as removal of the soil and contaminated sediment is a possible solution, he said.

Agents plan to take additional soil samples within the next month but EPA agent Melissa Linden said that, due to winter approaching, there is not a definitive time line for the samplings.

A Court Street property near Fayetteville showed PCB contamination that does not require action by EPA, Rodrigues said.

Contracted EPA agents conducted a ground-penetrating radar at Fayetteville after residents reported a possible buried tanker. Rodrigues said the GPR showed a “septic-like” structure and that soil testing showed non-actionable low levels of PCB.

The type of Aroclor, or PCB, detected at the Court Street site was a different type than PCB from the Shaffer’s site, he said.

The ppm EPA action standard for all types of PCB is the same.

Rodrigues said the EPA is finished at Court Street.

“For our purposes, it is closed,” Rodrigues said. “We’ve referred the data to WVDEP, and if they want to take some follow-up action, they obviously can.”

EPA agents are still taking samples of the soil at a former landfill site in Concho. Initial testing has shown low concentrations of PCBs, pesticides and dioxin in the sediment adjacent to the landfill but not further downstream of an unnamed tributary.

Metal contaminants such as lead have also been detected, but surface water was not impacted, EPA Region 3 Communications Officer Roy Seneca published in a press release Thursday.

Rodrigues said EPA is still collecting information on the Concho site. According to tax documents, the property is owned by Concho Land Co., which shared an officer with ACE Resort-owned properties.

ACE is the only major business in Minden and hosts a 1,500-acre resort at Concho, a cliffside area above Minden.

• • •

Ten of the Minden samples were above actionable WVDEP levels, according to an EPA report.

Minden resident Annetta Coffman, 42, said she and her neighbors welcome EPA to return to Minden for additional testing.

“The two (contaminated) yards were several feet apart, and the houses in between tested negative,” Coffman said. “I am certain that when they come back, we will have more exact levels.

“At least now we know that our suspicions were correct about the PCBs.”

Residents had requested that EPA officials conduct the latest round of PCB testing. EPA was at Minden in the 1980s and 1990s, botching at least one clean-up effort. Residents allege that storage tanks of PCB were refused by a landfill in Raleigh County after the first EPA clean-up effort and were then shipped via train to Alabama, where clerks at the destination dump site also refused them.

According to residents, one of the tankers was buried at the Court Street site.

An EPA official said Tuesday that, based on its own record-keeping system, EPA would not have kept records of where the tankers had been shipped.

• • •

Fayette Commission appointed Charleston attorney Mike Callaghan late last month to investigate illegal dumping in the county, naming Callaghan a special assistant prosecutor to Fayette Prosecuting Attorney Larry Harrah.

Callaghan, who is working on a contingency basis, plans to identify companies which polluted the county and to create a trust for cleanup by suing the insurance companies of responsible parties, Harrah said.

Rodrigues said that the EPA investigation did not uncover solid evidence of illegal dumping at Fayetteville.

“We did some interviews of the people who said there may have been disposal there, or illegal disposal there, and there really wasn’t any information we found that would lead us to any conclusions,” Rodrigues sad. “We have not found any concrete information that there was some kind of illegal disposal there.

“It seems to be a septic-like tank, but we’re not sure.”

Rodrigues said that some owners of contaminated properties are responsible for cleanup. If the contamination came from another source, the responsible party would be liable.

Regarding Shaffer’s, he added, “Since the parties we’re dealing with are all bankrupt or don’t exist anymore, the agency will be funding whatever cleanup is necessary, if a cleanup is necessary.”

EPA officials have suspicions that the current PCB contamination may not be coming from Shaffer’s.

According to Linden, EPA agents were notified that an act of vandalism in 1997 had caused a fire at a portion of the site. After assessing the site, which is an EPA Superfund site but is not on the National Priority List (NPL), EPA conducted an assessment and asked the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to construct a cap to cover one acre of the six-acre plot.

Linden reported that the Corps completed the cap in 2002. EPA officials said when they examined the cap over the summer, it appeared to have been effective in limiting the spread of PCB.

The most recent Minden samples, however, show that the highest contamination level is about a half-mile from Shaffer Equipment.

EPA agents will be investigating if there is another contributing contamination site in Minden, Linden said.

It’s not the first time that EPA agents have questioned the source of PCB contamination in Fayette County.

Following two clean-up efforts and removal of contaminated soils from Shaffer’s in the 1980s, EPA returned to Minden in 1989 after citizens reported that they did not believe EPA agents had fully cleaned the contaminants.

In May 1990, EPA agents took 70 samples from Shaffer’s. Sixteen samples showed that seven additional sites hosted PCBs above the human safety limit.

In September 1990, EPA agents reported that the contaminated soil had been on the site for less than one year. In October 1990, EPA officially launched a criminal investigation to determine the source of the new PCB contamination.

No further information on the 1990 criminal investigation was available Thursday evening.

• • •

The environmental citizens’ group Headwaters Defense launched a petition last week to stop the planned construction of upgrades to Arbuckle Public Service District on the grounds that EPA testing isn’t finished in Minden and that construction could disrupt PCBs.

Rodrigues said he did not want to speculate about the Arbuckle property but added that EPA has an established protocol for working with developers of a contaminated site.

Typically, developers conduct environmental assessments to ensure they are not causing the contamination to spread or be carried downstream.

“Developers do sampling and clean-ups as part of their development process, but if someone is interested in developing the property and it’s where we’re doing to be doing some sampling, we usually work hand in hand with state and local governments and the developer to make sure they have relevant information to make prudent choices,” said Rodrigues.

The type of development is also a factor, he added.

“As it applies to the actual Shaffer site, if they’re planning on running a sewer line through the property or near the property, usually we work very closely with whoever is doing that work to make sure it doesn’t in any way impact the cleanup or the threaten the cleanup we’ve done,” Rodrigues said. “If the plan is for somehow to cross the property line, then we’ll work with them to make sure whatever they’re doing is protective or work with them to suggest an alternative place to put the line, if what they’re doing will impact the cleanup.

“Until they actually contact us and give us concrete plans about what they’re doing, we can’t comment on whether it is prudent or not.”

A spokeswoman for Rep. Evan Jenkins, R-W.Va., confirmed Thursday that Jenkins has expressed interested in the Arbuckle PSD project.

“The congressman is monitoring this issue and is receiving regular updates from stakeholdres and agencies,” Evans’ spokeswoman, Rebecca Neal reported.

Rodrigues expressed a desire to make sure Minden residents have all information available to them. He urged property owners to attend two open house sessions at the National Guard Armory, 409 Wood Mountain Road in Glen Jean.

The first session is set for Oct. 27 from 6 to 8 p.m. and the second will run from 9 a.m. to noon on Oct. 28.

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