Superfund, Stone Treated Materials come under fire at hearing

Published 4:44 pm Friday, July 20, 2007

Two wood treating sites, one long closed and the other temporarily so, were discussed at a meeting to discuss how the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will clean the Superfund Site at the long closed site.

The Superfund Site is located off of Davis Street and is the result of years of wood treating conducted by Picayune Wood Treatment Inc. and its predecessors. During the company’s years at the site, creosote among other chemicals was used to treat wood to resist decay and insects. Now the EPA is in Picayune to attempt to clean up the mess. However, next door is another wood treatment facility has opened and has been issued cease-and-desist orders due to repeated noncompliance with Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality regulations. However, if that site comes under compliance and is reissued a storm water permit, the company can begin operations again.

Michael Taylor, EPA Remedial Project Manager, presented the plan to clean up the Wood Treatment site where most of the creosote reportedly was found. So far the plan is to dig up all of the contaminated soil down to one foot out of the site and put it under two caps located at opposite ends of the facility site, he said. On the residential side, the contaminated dirt also will be dug up from contaminated back yards of affected homes and added to the cap on the facility site, said EPA Federal On-Scene Coordinator Karen Buerki.

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The cap is estimated to rise about eight feet above ground once completed. In the cap will be several layers consisting of clay, fabric layers, sand, contaminated soil, all of it contained by a wall, Taylor said. On top of the cap will be vegetation.

Ground water will be treated with chemical oxidation, which will break down the creosote and other chemicals to bring the water to drinking water standards, Taylor said.

Total cost of the work will be about $28 million, he said. Every five years the site will be monitored for the life of the site, Taylor said.

Alternatives to burying the contaminated dirt in a centralized location are available, such as incineration, but would be costly, Buerki said.

Once that process, which will be conducted to industrial standards, is complete, the site could be used only for it’s current zoning, which is primarily community use consisting of a park or recreation area. This would mean the site could not be used for homes. Residential use of the site would involve additional cleaning, Taylor said. The current zoning of the site, industrial, determines the level of cleaning.

Council member Leavern Guy asked if the city changed the zoning would the clean-up process also change. Taylor said it may, but would increase the cost and push the project back. That news upset Guy since the EPA held a meeting to get public opinion on how the site would be cleaned up, but the city’s opinion seemed to not have been considered.

“It seems like you guys just went to that industrial level and skipped the (community’s) recommendation,” Guy said.

City employee Barbara McGrew said if the EPA is going to clean the site, it should be done so to make it useable in any capacity, not a limited capacity.

“You may as well do the best job you could do while you’re here,” McGrew said.

Testing of the area where the contamination was first found that started the investigation seemed to not have been taken into consideration by EPA. Asked why testing on Mill Creek ceased at Beech Street when a pocket of creosote was found under a bridge on Jackson Landing near Charlotte Drive, Buerki said she was unaware of such findings.

Buerki said she would look into that area and conduct further testing.

After discussions of the existing Superfund site ceased the temporarily closed wood treatment plant right next door, Stone Treated Materials, came under discussion.

Don Watts with MDEQ said that cease-and-desist orders were issued to the company for the site on June 11.

Guy asked why MDEQ did not just shut the site down permanently, considering the company opened up without any notification or application for permits from the city or from MDEQ.

Now all the company has to do is reapply for their permit after fixing all of the violations, MDEQ noted.

“They are just shut down until they go through the process,” Watts said.

Guy asked why they just don’t shut the site down now, considering the company already has spent so much time not complying with MDEQ standards.

“It’s right there in the shadow of the Superfund site,” Guy said.

When the company cleans up it’s act and reapplies for permits to begin operation again, then Watts said there will be a public comment period that the MDEQ permit board will take under consideration before the permit can be approved.

Watts would not say whether MDEQ had the authority to shut the site down permanently. Instead, he said that process would involve the permit board considering all of the evidence. If the board did deny Stone Treated Materials a permit, then the company could appeal, he said.

Buerki said Stone Treated Materials should have applied for a permit with the city before they began to operate, and the company should have to reapply for one. The city could deny such a permit, she said.