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Ohio Community at Odds with EPA Over Toxic Waste Site

Marilyn Welker of Clark County says the U.S. EPA's plans to clean up a toxic waste site aren't adequate. (M. Welker)
Marilyn Welker of Clark County says the U.S. EPA's plans to clean up a toxic waste site aren't adequate. (M. Welker)
May 19, 2016

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Some Ohio residents say federal plans to clean up a toxic waste site in Clark County just aren't going to cut it.

The Tremont City barrel fill site contains more than 51,000 drums buried in the late 1970s. They contain an estimated 1.5 million gallons of hazardous waste, including pesticides and volatile organic compounds.

The Environmental Protection Agency proposes building two liners at the site and reburying all waste except liquids.

Marilyn Welker, president of the local activist group People for Safe Water, maintains not neutralizing the chemicals compromises the plan.

"Liners have a shelf life of 50 to 60 years, at most,” she points out. “So, it is just another ticking time bomb and they're saying, 'Well this will protect you forever.' And we know that that's not the way the chemicals work. That's not the hydro-geology of this site."

Welker notes the site is very close to the Greater Miami Aquifer, which provides water for 13 Ohio counties.

The EPA stresses federal law requires making the plan cost effective, and the current plan has a $24 million price tag.

Community groups and local agencies are in favor of removing all the hazardous waste, which could cost about $56 million.

Welker says it's a story much bigger than the water supply of Clark County. She contends the federal agency is appeasing corporations instead of protecting human health and the environment, and worries that this plan could set a precedent.

"Who is our government working for?” she asks. “The more people speak out about this, the more U.S. EPA is on the hot seat. They're already on the hot seat because of Flint. This is the same office that had Flint as a 'responsible' water supply."

A statement from the federal EPA notes that since selecting a cleanup plan for the site in 2011, the agency has been working with the Ohio EPA and the local community to better understand the community's concerns about it, and might consider enhancing the plan to address those concerns.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH