WILMINGTON — It is not just the Town of Wilmington that has expressed frustration in dealings with Olin Chemical.
EPA Section Chief Lynne Jennings spoke to the Board of Selectmen with regard to ongoing contamination at the Olin site on May 28.
Jennings explained to the board that Olin submitted an interim feasibility study on the site in March of 2018, after years of disagreement and debate regarding the nature of the contamination. It took until December for the EPA and Olin to reach an agreement regarding corrections and updates to the feasibility study.
In April 2019, Olin submitted a new draft feasibility study addressing contaminated groundwater and dense aqueous-phased liquid (DAPL), and on May 24 submitted a draft feasibility study with regard to specific property at the site. Both are being reviewed by the EPA. In June, a draft remedial investigation will be submitted.
Jennings explained that this “interim” action will lead to interim cleanup plans for some aspects of the site and more complete plans for others. In the meantime, there will be a 30-day period throughout which the EPA will accept comments from stakeholders.
Jennings assured the board that a final cleanup plan would ultimately be issued, at which point negotiations would take place with the responsible party to take care of the financial side of the cleanup. She said that this could involve a mandated order for Olin to conduct the cleanup on its own dime, or an order for Olin to pay for the cleanup after the fact through a cost remediation process.
“Each case is very, very different with how we… proceed with getting the work done,” said Jennings.
Jennings also expressed that EPA representatives had noted that Olin was challenging to work with.
“Working with Olin has been… it’s been difficult. The cooperation has not been where we want it to be,” said Jennings.
She characterized the 12 years the site has spent in “investigative mode” on the national priorities list without a cleanup plan as problematic.
“That’s just a time frame that is not acceptable, and we need to move past that,” Jennings said.
Jennings also noted that care would need to be taken to ensure Olin doesn’t begin any constructing or contracting processes on the site that could interfere with ongoing cleanup.
Members of the board urged the EPA to make sure that the complete cleanup plan and procedure actually does come to pass.
“You’ve got to help us here in the town,” said Selectman Michael McCoy, noting that the federal government could exert influence in areas that municipal government likely couldn’t. “You’ve got to work with us, we’re really counting on you.”
McCoy added that he wanted to ensure the interim remediation plan did not replace the complete one entirely.
“Our biggest concern is that this is something that is not new,” he said, noting that plans have been in the works off and on throughout much of his multiple decades on the board.
Selectman Jonathan Eaton concurred with McCoy. He noted that the drawn-out time frame of the debates and investigative process had worsened the contamination, and that it was the residents in the area who ultimately paid the price for that.
“I found it to be almost relieving that you’ve found… your experience with Olin to be frustrating,” said Eaton, “and it really shouldn’t be that way, but at least it feels… like your experience with them has been similar to ours.”