WILMINGTON — After they issued a proposed remediation plan for the Olin Chemical Superfund Site in August, the Environmental Protection Agency extended the public comment period that follows until the end of October. They held a public informational meeting on Aug. 25 to begin the public comment period. The EPA also received comments in a virtual public hearing this past Tuesday night.
The Olin Superfund site, located at 53 Eames St. in Wilmington, has been a national priority for the EPA since 2006. The rubber and plastic chemicals company that closed in 1986 was responsible for the closing of several town wells in 2002 and 2003.
Since then, according to their website, the EPA has conducted ground studies requiring the collecting of sediment and groundwater sampling, groundwater treatment, and monitoring the slurry wall containment area. They also claim to have tested the feasibility of removing the DAPL, or dense aqueous phase liquid, pooling on top of bedrock and found that NDMA, chromium, and ammonia are still affecting the area’s groundwater.
EPA project manager Josh Fontaine gave a short recap of the EPA’s preferred plans and the considerations they made in selecting them to start the meeting on Tuesday night. He described how the interim actions would involve using extraction wells to remove DAPL and LNAPL and to attend to the hotspot groundwater, both of which would be treated; installing a new treatment system onsite; capping the containment area; and excavating about 4,000 cubic feet of contaminated sediment.
Several of the public commenters shared the opinion that the EPA’s proposed plan is insufficient for long-term progress and restoration. Gary Mercer of the WERC said the containment area isn’t really a containment area because it’s not enclosed in bedrock, which means that more groundwater below it could be contaminated even if it’s capped.
Suzanne Sullivan suggested removing all of the soil due to the risk of further contamination of groundwater and the disingenuous nature of the EPA’s desire to limit foot traffic to this area.
A main concern shared between many commenters was the desire for the town aquifer’s water to be restored to drinkable standards, possibly beyond the conditions that the EPA has selected in terms of the groundwater hotspots.
“The five municipal wells [that were closed due to contamination] supplied over half of the water supplied to residents and businesses,” Town Manager Jeff Hull said in his comment.
Residents said they’d prefer the most aggressive remediation done in order to restore the aquifer because the NDMA can’t be removed completely.
Another issue highlighted was the importance of completing the remediation before redevelopment. Ethan Sawyer explained that the Olin site’s proposed next use is for the New England Transrail under the name Wilmington Woburn Intermodal LLC to transport raw materials and waste.
Other commenters questioned the EPA’s preferences chosen by cost and instead hope to see the EPA go with what would be best for the residents and the community. They shared the desire for Olin to be held responsible for their lack of effort over the past 30 years with as much of the remediation cost as possible.
While the EPA can’t say how long it will take to revise from public comments into a finalized plan, they said in their original presentation to expect the release by the end of the year.
“After the public comment period ends, EPA carefully evaluates all input provided on our proposed cleanup plan and we will issue a final plan called a ‘Record of Decision,’” EPA representative Dave Deegan wrote in a statement.
In addition to considering the input provided in the record of decision, the EPA will be answering all of the comments from the formal comment period in writing.
The public is invited to reach out to the EPA with their comments from now until Oct. 26. These can be e-mailed to email@example.com or mailed to: Melanie Morash U.S. EPA Region 1 – New England Mail Code 7-4 5 Post Office Square Boston, MA 02109-3912.
The EPA also has set up a voice mailbox at 617-918-1880 for the length of the comment period. For more details on the proposed plan and how to comment, see www.epa.gov/superfund/olin.