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EPA could choose plan for Central Chemical site cleanup within year

January 11, 2008

HAGERSTOWN - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency should decide within the next year on a plan to help mitigate soil contamination at the former Central Chemical plant on Mitchell Avenue.

Mitch Cron, the EPA's project coordinator for the Central Chemical Superfund site, said the EPA is considering a plan to build a cover over a large portion of the property, which was used to produce pesticides and fertilizer from the 1930s until the plant closed in the mid-1980s.

If the EPA approves the cover, the design, planning and construction of the project should take about two years to complete, he said.

Cron joined other environmental officials Thursday evening during a meeting of the Central Chemical Site Community Liaison Panel at the Hampton Inn near Maugansville.

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Bill Murray of URS Corp., an engineering firm overseeing the project, said the cover would cost $9 million to $12 million. Another option, which would involve excavating the dirt and hauling it away to EPA approved dump sites, would cost about $40 million, he said.

Murray said about 15 companies that could be responsible for contaminating the site would have to pay the cost. Some of the chemicals that were produced at Central Chemical include the well-known pesticide DDT and Lindane, an insecticide used to treat head lice and scabies, he said.

In 1987, workers who were digging a sewer trench through a pesticide disposal landfill on the property discovered a variety of toxic chemicals, said Robert Wallace of the Maryland Department of the Environment. After the discovery, state and federal environmental agencies were called in to remedy the problem.

Wallace said he was concerned that the cover might not prevent ground water from reaching the contaminated soil. In addition, chemical vapor could seep through the cover after it is installed.

"It's a serious site," Wallace said before the meeting. "There are some highly toxic chemicals and a lot of them."

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