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Central Chemical put on Superfund list

September 25, 1997

By TERRY TALBERT

Staff Writer

The Environmental Protection Agency has put the 19-acre former Central Chemical Corp. plant site in Hagerstown on its Superfund list of the country's most hazardous waste sites.

The EPA said agricultural pesticides and fertilizers were blended at the plant from the 1930s to the 1960s, although the corporation continued some operations at the plant until 1984.

Hazardous waste material has been found in soil, ground and surface water, and in fish caught downstream from the site, the EPA said. "The contaminants include arsenic, lead, mercury, benzene, DDT and other chemicals which cause a wide variety of health problems in humans and animals," the agency said.

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Cleanup of the Hagerstown site could cost as much as $30 million, according to the EPA.

EPA officials said a new housing subdivision is about 50 feet from the site's fence line.

City planner Matt Davis said the city has not been notified by the EPA of any problems with continuing development at the Brighton Manor and West Irvin Heights housing developments, both of which adjoin the Central Chemical property lines.

Davis said three new lots are being developed in the Brighton Manor subdivision. Davis said the homes in that subdivision nearest to Central Chemical are at least 100 feet from the company's property line.

Davis said the newest 12 lots in the West Irvin Heights subdivision are about 30 to 40 feet from the company's property line.

Davis said developers, city officials and environmental officials discussed contamination on Central Chemical's property in a meeting at City Hall in 1992 and determined there was no problem going ahead with development in that area.

The approximately 1,200 Superfund sites nationwide pose a long-term threat to the public health and environment, EPA officials said.

Seven of the 12 companies considered by the EPA to be "potentially liable" for contamination at the site agreed earlier this month to pay for two studies that must be done before the EPA comes up with a plan for cleanup, said EPA Region III Section Chief Peter Ludzia.

Central Chemical is negotiating with those other companies and expects to become the eighth member of that group by this time next week, said Central Chemical attorney Thomas E. Lynch III.

Lynch said he has no idea what the two studies will cost.

The first study details what type of contaminants are at the site, where they're located, and whether they're present in soil, water and/or air, Ludzia said. The second assesses the risk to human health and the environment.

Lutzia said the studies could take two years to complete.

The firms that have already committed to fund the studies are: Allied Signal Inc. of Morristown, N.J.; FMC Corp. of Philadelphia, Pa.; Olin Corp. of Norwalk, Conn.; Shell Oil Co. of Houston, Texas; Union Carbide Corp. of Danbury, Conn.; Novartis Corp.; Central Chemical Corp., and Wilmington Securities of Pittsburgh, formerly known as Pittsburgh Coke & Chemical Co. and Pittsburgh Agricultural Chemical Co.

The EPA has been monitoring the site for some time.

This spring EPA officials said they found DDT and chlordane in soil samples taken outside the fence that surrounds the site, in an area that adjoins a field behind a residential neighborhood.

Central Chemical agreed to put up a 10-foot-high fence 20 feet beyond the original 6-foot fence in the area where the chemicals were found, to keep humans and large animals from coming in contact with the soil.

Central Chemical still owns the Mitchell Avenue plant, but has offices elsewhere in Hagerstown. The old plant is leased to Hagerstown Recycling and Trucking.

Avis Bean, spokeswoman for Hagerstown Recycling, said EPA officials have been in that company's building at 601 Mitchell Ave. numerous times, taking scrapings from walls and floors, and testing the water.

She said as far as she knows, the tests came out negative. No one has told the company to relocate, she said. "They've never said anything to us about there being a problem here," she said.

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