Another toxic chemical revealed at ‘Burn Pit’

Another toxic chemical revealed at ‘Burn Pit’

Posted on Wednesday, July 1st, 2015 and is filed under FEATURENews. You can follow any responses to this entry through theRSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

Another highly toxic chemical, DBCP, is now a hot topic at the contaminated Velsicol Chemical Co. “Burn Pit” site in St. Louis, which is located in the upper left portion of the photo across the Pine River from the former plant property and just east of Hidden Oaks Golf Course. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has a proposed cleanup plan in place but funding has not yet been approved. The five acre parcel was used to burn waste from the plant as was reclassified as a superfund site in 2006.

by Greg Nelson

Herald Editor

Members of the Pine River Superfund Citizens Task Force weren’t thrilled with the remedy chosen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to cleanup the Velsicol Chemical Co. “Burn Pit” site in St. Louis in the first place.

Now they are upset about a highly toxic chemical buried on the property that was never discussed by EPA officials during a public presentation several months ago.

During a recent task force meeting Jena Sleboda Braun, EPA project manager for the Burn Pit site, brought up the fact that dibromochloropropane, better known as DBCP, is one of the hazardous chemicals that are still present on the five acre parcel, which is located just east of the Hidden Oaks Golf Course, north of M-46 across the Pine River from the former Velsicol plant site.

During Braun’s Powerpoint presentation to the group, she said “DBCP was emphasized as being a danger on the site, especially to workers,” task force Secretary Jane Keon said.

Jason Cole, of EPA contractor CH2MHILL, also showed several slides he made the past month regarding the toxic substance found on the property, she added.

Cole said that DBCP at the site were found at levels of 170,000 parts per billion.0.1 ppb is considered dangerous and can cause male sterility.

According to the Wikipedia website, DBCP is the active ingredient in the nematcide Nemegon, also known as Fumazone.

It is a soil fumigant formerly used in American agriculture. After discovery of its deleterious health effects on humans, the compound was banned from use by the EPA in 1970.

“The continuing presence of the chemical as a contaminant in groundwater remains a problem for many communities for year after end use,” the website stated.

A number of lawsuits have resulted from the use of DBCP, including one from Dow Chemical Co. plant workers who were allegedly made sterile by exposure to the substance, according to the Wikipedia site.

Exposure can come from ingesting water or food contaminated by DBCP or from inhalation of contact with the skin.

Task force members asked Braun why the dangerous levels of DBCP found at the Burn Pit were not brought up by the EPA earlier.

She noted that the information was published in the remedial investigation report, the proposed cleanup plan and the feasibility study.

Braun also said that the task force had never asked questions about DBCP prior to the last meeting.

When asked “what dangerous chemicals we should be asking about now, Theo von Wallmenich of CM2MHILL told task force members “they should be using their paid technical advisor to answer that question,” Keon said.

The Burn Pit was used by Velsicol and its predecessor, the Michigan Chemical Co., to burn waste from the plant. It was reclassified as a Superfund site by the EPA in 2006.

Task force members were looking for a more permanent remediation than the method chosen recently by the EPA even before leaning about the high levels of DBCP.

The agency wants to use a thermal heat treatment called “in situ” to remove hazardous tar-like pollutants that are known as non-aqueous phase liquid, or NAPL, to remediate the soil and groundwater contamination on 1.4 acres of the property.

A 12-inch compacted soil cap and six inches of topsoil would be added to cover the entire site, which is also known to include the highly toxic substances of ethylene dichloride and benzene that exceed state and federal standards.

It will also include the installation of extraction wells, perimeter drainage swales and long-term monitoring of the entire five-acre parcel.

However, task force members have several concerns including the lack of a provision for the new owners of the golf course, and that benzene and lindane have been found at a depth of up to 77 feet below the surface but the EPA’s plan only will use its thermal heat treatment to a depth of 33 feet.

They also don’t like the fact the agency will place a soil cap over the site. That was done at the former Velsicol plant site and the barrier failed to contain the pollutants on the property.

The EPA says the treatment: “Will also reduce contaminant concentrations in the soil and capture liquid and vapor pollutants through multiphase extraction” using a “vacuum system to remove various combinations of contaminated groundwater, petroleum produces and vapors from underground.”

In addition, the agency will pick up the tab for converting nine nearby residential properties that have their own wells to the city water system.

Total cost of the entire project is estimated at $23.1 million.

The EPA looked at several criteria in determining the best remediation plan for the Burn Pit, including the overall protection of human health and the environment, long-term effectiveness and permanence, the reduction of toxicity, mobility and volume of the contaminants, feasibility and cost.

The task force preferred another option that was initially proposed, which would have addressed the entire parcel, including excavation of the contaminated soil.

The price tag for that alternative, however, was estimated to cost about $116.5 million.

The plan still must go before the EPA Prioritization Panel to get approval for funding.