EPA outlines next steps for Lockwood Superfund site cleanup

2013-01-24T22:30:00Z 2013-01-25T13:40:04Z EPA outlines next steps for Lockwood Superfund site cleanupBy CARMEN DAYE IRISH cirish@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

The Environmental Protection Agency announced Thursday that it will begin sampling indoor air quality next month in about 10 homes and businesses that are potentially at risk of contamination from the Lockwood Superfund site.

The agency hosted an open house Thursday at the Lockwood Middle School which included a brief presentation to about 15 people on the status of the 580-acre Lockwood Solvent Groundwater Plume Site.

After the vapor intrusion assessment, the agency will compare samples to those taken in 2002 and 2003 to determine if contaminants from the groundwater plume are moving into homes and businesses.

The EPA designated the Superfund site in 2000 after the state found concentrations of chlorinated solvents exceeding drinking water standards. No cleanup work has been done.

The chemicals of concern — tetrachloroethene (PCE) and its breakdown chemical, trichloroethene (TCE) — which are commonly used as degreasers and in dry-cleaning, can cause serious health risks, primarily through ingestion of groundwater and inhalation of vapor releases through what the EPA refers to as indoor air pathway.

What’s more, said EPA remedial project manager Roger Hoogerheide, is that the vapors become more mobile as they break down.

“Unfortunately, contamination doesn’t stop at the boundaries,” he said.

Once the site boundaries are determined, the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation will establish a contamination buffer-area zone, which will depend on how water responds to well aquifer pumping, Hoogerheide said.

Most of the spills occurred in the 1970s, he said, before stringent environmental protection laws were in place.

As part of the initial emergency response in 2000, the EPA installed a municipal water line to residents in the north area of the site that previously was served by groundwater wells.

“Nobody is drinking the water at this point,” Hoogerheide said. “Everybody is on public water. The primary driver for us is the indoor air pathway.”

Homes and businesses in the Lomond Lane area with basements, crawl spaces and dirt foundations are most at risk, he said.

Hoogerheide said in April, additional soil and groundwater samples were collected from the Beall Trailers Inc. source area, one of two companies responsible for the contamination.

The results determined that the groundwater contamination is consistent with historical data in that the source area is localized underneath and near what was a steam clean bay.

“The source area sits like a bathtub, sits tight in there,” said Tillman McAdams, EPA remedial project manager of the site area. “So we are looking at an option of dig and haul. It’s localized right underneath the steam clean bay.”

The EPA approved the remedial design assessment work plan and quality assurance project plan for the second company site responsible for contamination — Soco West. Inc.

The Soco West remedial design assessment plan for 2013 includes installation of monitoring wells and collection of groundwater and soil samples for laboratory analysis.

The estimated cleanup cost is $14.3 million. Hoogerheide said the record of decision estimates cleanup will be complete by 2021.

But, he said, it could take up to 100 years for the source area to be free of contamination. The plume is very old and has a pool of contamination that is as deep down as the bedrock.

Board members from the Lockwood Water and Sewer District said asked if the EPA would release them from liability in order to continue their Phase 1 Sewer Lockwood Sub-district project that is near completion.

The EPA halted the sewer line project in April leaving 27 homes and businesses without sewer service.

Hoogerheide said the EPA could not release them from liability because the project “is basically dead smack in the middle of the plume.”

Another topic of discussion of liability pointed at real estate transactions.

Lockwood Ground Water Plume site area residents, as well as both source and non-source commercial property owners, are able to refinance or sell their properties during and after cleanup.

The EPA provides assistance, when needed, to facilitate these land transactions Hoogerheide said.

There are also several EPA programs in place to help "innocent landowners," those who purchase contaminated property with no prior knowledge of contamination” as well as “contiguous landowners," property owners who have owned land that became contaminated during their period of ownership.

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