EXIDE FAIRFIELD BREAKING NEWS: PCBs found in sediment removed from Mill River during remediation work to remove lead contaminants from Exide lead smelter
MINUTEMAN NEWS CENTER
Stumbling block at Exide site as PCBs found
Levels of Polychlorinated Biphenyl were found last week in sediment which was removed from the bottom of the Mill River during remediation work at the Exide Battery plant to remove lead contaminants. PCBs were detected which require certain regulatory discussions/interpretations with the CT DEEP and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), the regulatory agency that oversees how PCBs are managed and disposed of. Efforts are currently underway to locate and remove any and all PCBs.
“The material that was in the river and could have been considered as hazardous is no longer in the river and is now fully contained in a safe controlled location,” said Donald Gonyea, Environmental Analyst at the DEEP. “It is also important to note that the EPA now will be making a determination on the entire project disposal. It’s very complicated.”
“The next step is that TRC will be bringing both a discussion of what was found and on how the material will be disposed of,” continued Gonyea. “They are working as quickly as they can, they now have to vet a number of new disposal facilities that we did not think we were going to need. They will put together a list of hazardous waste disposal areas for the lead and the Toxic Substance Control Act regulated materials for the PCB regulated residuals. It is not an instant process but the public will continue to be fully protected and the complications are not related to any risk to human health or to the environment.”
“It is unfortunate and has slowed the project down,” said Richard Chandler, Exide’s environmental consultant. “Really what happens when you find PCBs is you have to contact the DEEP who contacts the EPA, complicating the disposal process. We are in a holding pattern as they work through how and where to get this stuff disposed of. The load out trial run was done on April 21, and at some point after that time when they (TRC) were taking the next waste characterization samples for the next batch of bags to be loaded out, they got the laboratory results and PBC findings. They won’t do any more testing now until this gets resolved, until we get directions from the DEEP and EPA.”
“At one level, you take the bags to the planned site, at another level you take them to a PCB available space,” said First Selectman Mike Tetreau. “It’s a higher level of contamination that not every site can take. That’s one issue and that raises the cost significantly, it’s not a Town cost, but it does raise the issue and they now also need to work with the EPA which deals with PCB’s.”
Regarding the contamination, “They don’t know what the source is yet, but they don’t believe it’s still going on,” Tetreau said. “There is no evidence stating that it is Exide related, so it may not be. The question to DEEP is how do you assure us that everything is ok with the river with respect to PCB’s. Tell us what the status of the river is. Since we don’t know who caused the PCB contamination, who pays for that? We are anxiously waiting further information and guidance from DEEP.”
When asked who will absorb this additional unforeseen cost, Chandler said, “As of now they are in bags and Exide’s going to have to foot the bill to dispose of these now, so as of right now Exide is. The material is there in the bags, so Exide will dispose of those but by doing that they are not acknowledging they are the responsible party for the PCB’s.”
“I want to express that there is obviously no threat to the general public based on this realization, no one is being exposed to PCBs, whatever the source of this PCB is in the river is historic and it is not likely an ongoing release from any known area,” said Brian Carey, Conservation Director in Fairfield.
A polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) is a synthetic, organic chlorine compound derived from biphenyl, which is a molecule composed of two benzene rings. PCBs were widely used as dielectric and coolant fluids in electrical apparatus, cutting fluids for machining operations, carbonless paper and in heat transfer fluids. Due to PCBs’ environmental toxicity and classification as a persistent organic pollutant, PCB production was banned by the United States Congress in 1979. The International Research Agency on Cancer (IRAC) rendered PCBs as definite carcinogens in humans. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), PCBs cause cancer in animals and are probable human carcinogens. The maximum allowable contaminant level in drinking water in the United Sates is set at zero, however because of water treatment technologies; a level of 0.5 parts per billion is the de facto level.
The Mill River Cleanup Team held a discussion with the DEEP and local stakeholders on May 5 to discuss the status of sediment load out activities and other project-related topics. Barry Culp, Project Manager at TRC, the firm conducting the cleanup work for Exide, informed the group that the trial run of sediment load out in April was successful and that the contents of two geotextile tubes were removed from the site via 43 truckloads. During the routine course of the required waste characterization sampling for the next round of load outs, three geotextile tubes exhibited detectable concentrations of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB’s), one of which had a concentration that was above the 50 parts per million (ppm) mark. The project has been put on hold while the proper course of action is now set into place as regulators work through new disposal options.
The sediments containing the PCBs were dredged from Area Two between the Post Road and the Metro-North Railway. Low levels of PCBs were detected in that same area during sediment sampling in 1991 and in 2008. Only a few landfills in the United States accept PCB-containing sediment above 50 ppm, the nearest being in Alabama and Michigan. Fourteen of the 39 geotextile tube bags have been tested thus far. Two bags, which did not exhibit PCBs, have been removed from the site during the trial run in April, and three bags have exhibited PCBs with only one bag exhibiting PCBs over 50 ppm. This one detection has triggered regulatory complications, a halt on any and all load out work onsite, a significant cost increase and delays as the regulators consider 50 ppm a necessity for federal disposal oversight. Discussion as to who will absorb the significant cost increase are underway as are discussions regarding the food chain (fish and shellfish); ingestion of the actual PCB containing sediments or top of the food chain fish, where bioaccumulation can build, are the biggest hazards.
“The have already been restrictions in place through the Conn. Department of Public Health for Fish Advisories because the only real way you can get exposed to something like this would be through ingestion of fish and some of the larger rivers in the State are known to have considerably high levels of PCB’s, there are fish advisories based on that.” Regarding shellfish contamination Carey continued, “The shell fishing in the Mill River is actually closed per restricted relay grounds which mean you could harvest out the shellfish but would have to move it off to other grounds for six months. It’s already restricted because there are sources of pollutantion in the river.”
The best case scenario, according to the Mill River Cleanup Team, is that a plan gets accepted next week by EPA in principle allowing TRC to begin coordinating with landfills for disposal of the PCB-containing material. A proposed plan on how the dredged sediment with detectable levels of PCBs will be managed and disposed of is being prepared and is targeted to be submitted to the USEPA this week. Load out will resume upon confirmation from the USEPA of the disposal plan and approval from appropriate permitted disposal facilities. Dewatering of sediment, treatment of filtrate, and monitoring and sampling as required by the CT DEEP will continue. “I am concerned as we all are and would like to have a complete understanding of where the PCB’s are and if there are any left in the river,” said Tetreau.
Gonyea noted, “It’s in EPA’s hands now and they are aware that the project is being held up by this and they have committed to helping expedite things to the best extent possible. We are hopeful everything will move well and we can resume the load out.” The CT DEEP is preparing a “PCB Fact Sheet” that will be available to the public in the near future.
PCB discovery hits Exide pollution cleanup with new delay
Updated 10:29 am, Sunday, May 22, 2016
FAIRFIELD — Toxins known as PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) have been found in some samples of sediment dredged from the Mill River as part of the latest cleanup of the former Exide Battery property on the Post Road.
The sediment is stockpiled on the Exide property and poses no danger to residents because of the site controls already in place, according to a statement from the first selectman’s office.
The discovery, however, has prompted a mandatory review of the project by the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and the federal Environmental Protection Agency under the Toxic Substances and Control Act.
The agencies will review the new sampling data and require additional authorizations prior to allowing the sediment to be moved from the property to a certified landfill facility.
Cleanup of the Exide factory property and the contamination it also caused in the Mill River has been going on for decades.
A first attempt at remediation of the Mill River was done in 1983 when about 4,000 yards of contaminated sediment was removed from the river. Ground contaminants were removed between 1987 and 1990.
But the current DEEP order was issued in 2008 when it was discovered that those initial efforts failed to reduce the lead levels in the river. There was a long process that involved town officials, residents, DEEP and the property owners to come to an agreement on how much of the contaminated sediment needed to be removed and the mechanics of that process.
It is believed the bulk of the lead contamination was caused by spills during the battery-manufacturing process.
When the factory was demolished, 13,000 tons of demolition debris, 10,000 tons of contaminated soil and 4,000 feet of contaminated pipes were removed from the Post Road property.
The sediment subsequently dredged from the river and de-watered, now sits in large brown sacks piled high on the site, waiting to be moved to an approved disposal site.
According to town officials, PCB testing was not previously required based on Exide’s past industrial practices and historical testing on the Mill River sediments revealed only low levels of PCBs “typical of any urban watershed.”
It will be up to the DEEP and the EPA if a responsible party for release of the PCBs into the river can be determined, and what the next course of action will be.