Central Chemical visitors note some progress in cleanup

June 10, 2005|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS


People who toured the old Central Chemical Inc. site off Mitchell Avenue on Thursday saw something new: nothing.

Over the past three months, contractors tore down 15 dilapidated buildings on the site that held the former pesticide and fertilizer plant that is now in the hands of the federal Superfund environmental clean-up program.

The demolition was completed about two weeks ago.

"It's nice to see that the buildings (are) gone," said Becky Orndorff. She lives near Hagerstown, and has been a member of community panels that were put in place to guide the eventual use of the 19-acre Central Chemical site.

While concrete slabs remain on the site, the buildings, junked cars and machine tools that had been left by renters after the plant closed are gone.


About 3,000 tons of debris - concrete, rubble and steel - were hauled from the site, said Bill Murray, who has been overseeing the project for URS Corp., which is working with the U.S. Department of Environmental Protection to shepherd the clean-up project.

Some of that was hauled to a Pennsylvania hazardous materials dump, said James Loyless, who was in charge of the demolition project. Another 600 tons of steel was decontaminated and recycled.

The efforts do not mean the site has been deemed safe. Warning signs remain posted around the site, and Murray gave safety instructions to visitors Thursday, which included no smoking or gum chewing.

Scientists continue to look for more data about the site. While private and government chemists have performed extensive research of the extent of contamination left by the chemical plant, more needs to be done, Murray told the community panel Thursday night at a meeting after the site tour.

One thing researchers will be looking into in the coming months is the level of groundwater contamination from the chemicals left by the plant. Residents do not face drinking water problems posed by the chemicals because no one is drinking from well water, Murray said.

Nonetheless, those chemicals include the pesticides, fertilizers and hazardous heavy metals dumped by the plant from the 1930s through the mid-1980s.

Scientists know the contaminants exist on the site, but the extent to which the site is contaminated will determine the level of difficulty in cleaning up the site, Murray and others said Thursday.

If the chemical presence is light enough, the cleanup could be as simple as covering the contaminated area with clean soil or pavement. Other options include digging up the contaminated dirt and scrubbing it chemically to deactivate any of the contaminants or hauling away the contaminated soil and putting it in a landfill.

Either way, said George Crouse, a representative for the companies claiming responsibility for the cleanup, "It's not going to be a fast process."

The Herald-Mail Articles