EPA explains cleanup of city Superfund site

March 07, 2003|by MARLO BARNHART

Cecelia McQuait needed to find out what to expect when cleanup finally begins this month at the former Central Chemical site not far from her Fremont Street home.

So she and her husband, Larry, showed up Thursday night at Western Heights Middle School for an informational meeting which was organized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

"I'm very concerned about air quality when they start digging everything up," she said, expressing her worries about the carcinogens that might be released into the air.


Her need for more information and the needs of more than a dozen other private citizens who turned out during the first two hours of the three-hour session were exactly why the informal session was planned.

"At long last, we are beginning our investigation," said Eric Newman, remedial project manager for the EPA at the 19-acre federal Superfund site off Mitchell Avenue in Hagerstown's West End.

Newman said those experts familiar with the site are convinced the contamination is within the current fence line.

"We will be installing six groundwater wells to see if anything has gotten into the underground streams," Newman said.

Initial tests on Marsh Run and Antietam Creek show the water to be clean, but there are residual contaminants in the sediment.

"We're going to track that down, too," Newman said.

To ease the fears of those in the area, a community advisory committee is being formed, Newman said.

"We are collecting names for that here at this meeting," he said. "Hopefully, they will gather information from neighbors and bring it back to us."

Gudrun Cook, a longtime Noland Drive resident, said she attended the meeting to see if the city has a plan for the site.

"The city needs to do something with it to be of benefit to the city once it is cleaned up," Cook said.

Gerhard Muller and his wife, Florence, came to Hagerstown two years ago from New Mexico, settling on Irvin Avenue.

"We are all very optimistic of a successful cleanup," Muller said.

In addition to EPA and City of Hagerstown officials, several of the potentially responsible parties were on hand, including former plant manager David Schwartz and George Crouse, who represents the group of those parties.

"We, too, are pleased to be seeing things moving," Crouse said. "We're ready to go."

The EPA work is expected to take about two years

According to the EPA, from the 1930s through the mid-1980s, Central Chemical blended agricultural pesticides and fertilizers, creating waste and byproducts that were allegedly disposed of in an old stone quarry on the property and in a sinkhole. Contaminants on the site include arsenic, lead, benzene, aldrin, chlordane, DDD, DDE, DDT, dieldrin and methoxychlor.

A public meeting at Western Heights Middle School is scheduled for March 20 at 7 p.m.. There people can hear about the possible reuses and give feedback.

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