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EPA clearing Superfund contamination sites

December 15, 2018

The federal Environmental Protection Agency was busy this year deleting contaminated sites from the national Superfund list, including a former Southington landfill now deemed safe.

In all, 22 sites were removed from the Superfund list — the most taken off in 13 years.

“Under President Trump, EPA is deleting Superfund sites from the National Priorities List at the fastest pace in more than a decade,” said EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler.

“This remarkable accomplishment is proof that cleaning up contaminated lands and returning them to safe and productive use is a top priority of the Trump EPA,” Wheeler said in a press release.

The EPA recently completed reviews on four other Connecticut Superfund sites — in Naugatuck, Beacon Falls, Barkhamsted and Canterbury — and determined Superfund status should continue, which means further cleanup work and monitoring, and and land use restrictions stay in place.

Environmentalists are wary of the EPA’s rush to delete Superfund sites and have expressed concern that a desire for redevelopment and new taxes could outweigh public protection.

But Betsey Wingfield, an air and land management bureau chief for the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, said her agency agreed with removing the Southington landfill from the Superfund list.

“EPA consulted us and we agreed with full deletion,” Wingfield said.

Some state officials privately noted that the EPA, at least so far, has been deleting low hanging fruit — old sites in which cleanup work was essentially finished during former President Barrack Obama’s administration.

“The [EPA] administration was encouraged to clear the books,” Wingfield said.

Other sites removed from the list include a former chemical plant in Maine, an oil pit in Florida, a manufacturing plant in Massachusetts and a smelting operation in Utah.

Southington deleted

Superfund status is the most extreme red flag that can be placed on property and draws federal intervention — and often dollars — to monitor the site, clean up contamination and protect the public from exposure.

It usually comes with deed restrictions that limit what can be built on the property, such as a ban on residential buildings.

The Southington landfill received domestic and industrial waste from 1920 to 1967 and was added to the list in 1984 after groundwater in a nearby municipal well was found to contain cancer causing volatile organic compounds at levels exceeding state standards.

The EPA and DEEP oversaw cleanup of the contaminated soil, surface water and sediment and the adjacent Black Pond, as well as mitigation of vapor wafting into buildings downwind of the landfill.

Groundwater will continue to be monitored and overseen by both the EPA and DEEP to ensure the effectiveness of a cap placed over the former landfill.

Land use is also restricted, including a ban on residential and commercial buildings and disturbance of the pollution controls now in place. Passive recreation uses are allowed, pending review.

“The deletion of the Old Southington Landfill from the Superfund list signals important progress for communities here in Southington,” said EPA New England Regional Administrator Alexandra Dunn.

“The progress at these sites exemplifies EPA’s and this administration’s commitment to clean up contaminated sites while working with the local community every step of the way to ensure their concerns are heard and addressed,” Dunn said in a statement.

DEEP Commissioner Robert Klee also issued a statement in support of the deletion.

“Working collaboratively with the EPA, we are taking action to correct the mistakes of the past,” Klee said.

The Trump Administration has made deletions from the Superfund program a top priority. The EPA last year created a Superfund Task Force charged with recommending sites for removal, and to promote redevelopment.

“By redeveloping Superfund sites, communities are able to reuse thousands of acres of formerly contaminated land, often strengthening local economies,” the EPA said.

A total of 1,345 sites remain on the Superfund list, with 14 located in Connecticut.

Site review

Four Connecticut Superfund sites were reviewed this year by the EPA and those sites will remain on the Superfund list, which means continued monitoring and oversight.

The sites are the former Laurel Park Landfill, a 35-acre parcel in Naugatuck, the Yaworski Waste Lagoon in Canterbury, the former Barkhamsted-New Hartford landfill and the former Beacon Heights Landfill in Beacon Falls.

John Senn, a spokesman for EPA’s New England region, said the Connecticut sites reviewed are all former landfills and the most significant component of the cleanup is the landfill cover or cap.

“The reviews completed at these sites concluded that the remedies are functioning as designed and thus are still protective,” Senn said.

A review is required when hazardous substances remain at a site above acceptable levels, Senn added.

Wingfield said the goal is to reuse Superfund sites when possible and pointed to the former Raymark property in Stratford as a prime example of how polluted property can be returned to the tax rolls. A part of that site is now a shopping center.

“It’s a prime piece of real estate,” Wingfield said of the Stratford property. “They are still working on other units.”

Other portions of the Raymark site remain on the Superfund list. Raymark sold brakes and clutches from about 1919 through 1989.

Dunn said the five year review of Superfund sites is a “critical part” of the process.

“It helps ensure remedies remain protective of public health and the environment,” Dunn said, adding the goal is to “make sure the remedy will be protective of public health and the environment.”

bcummings@ctpost.com

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