Data show natural processes are effectively reducing contaminants in groundwater
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will clean up contaminated groundwater at the Tri-Cities Barrel Superfund site in Fenton, N.Y., using a variety of natural processes. The groundwater is contaminated with volatile organic compounds, which can cause damage to people’s health and the environment. EPA originally planned to extract and treat the contaminated groundwater, but since the original cleanup plan was selected, data collected indicate that natural processes are effectively reducing the level of contaminants and treatment is not needed.
EPA is requiring periodic collection and analysis of groundwater samples to verify that the level and extent of contaminants are declining and that people’s health and the environment are protected. In August 2011, EPA held a public meeting and encouraged the public to provide input on this and two other cleanup options being considered by the agency.
The Tri-Cities Barrel Superfund site is a 14.9-acre former drum and barrel reclamation facility. During the reconditioning process, drums and barrels were cleaned and reconditioned using a variety of chemicals. Between 1960 and 1980, liquid waste from the process was discharged into a series of unlined lagoons on the site. Under EPA’s oversight, parties potentially responsible for the contamination at the site removed more than 350 drums, as well as all containers, tanks, process equipment and buildings, and cleaned up the lagoons. All of the equipment that was used while the drum reconditioning business was still in operation was decontaminated, all structures located on site were demolished, and the debris was disposed of off site.
In 2000, EPA selected a cleanup plan for the site that included excavating and disposing of the contaminated soil and sediment off site, and extracting and treating the groundwater to remove contaminants. The cleanup of the soil and sediment was completed in 2003. The plan released in 2000 came from evaluating three alternatives to address the site-wide groundwater contamination: taking no action, an option that must be considered under the Superfund law; extracting and treating groundwater; and letting the contaminants naturally break down while regularly monitoring the site. At the time that the remedy was selected, sufficient data did not exist to demonstrate that natural breakdown of contamination was occurring at the site. Groundwater extraction and treatment was selected as the most appropriate cleanup alternative. Since the remedy was selected, monitoring has shown that natural processes are effectively reducing contaminant levels in the groundwater.