Silver Run group demands more EPA action on toxic landfill Cleanup is too slow, PACE members say

November 22, 1992|By Greg Tasker | Greg Tasker,Staff Writer

Representatives of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will meet tomorrow night with a Silver Run citizens group that has been pressing for some action on the proposed cleanup of a nearby landfill in Pennsylvania.

The group, People Against Contamination of the Environment Inc., has prodded the EPA to meet with area residents to discuss the proposed cleanup and other issues, such as well testing, the agency's community relations program and a change in the project manager for the cleanup.

"We have a lot of questions and a lot of complaints about the way this process is working or not working," said Susan Hardinger, PACE president. "We want to be able to talk to them face-to-face in our community about how this lack of action is hurting our community."

The meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. at St. Mary's United Church of Christ, on Mayberry Road in Silver Run.

The source of PACE's worries is pollution from the Keystone Sanitation Landfill, which is about a quarter-mile over the county line in Union Township, Pa. Nearly a decade ago, residents there found contaminants in their wells and pressured the EPA to investigate the site.

A year later, contamination was found in nearby Carroll County wells. The PACE group was formed shortly afterward to look out for the concerns of Silver Run residents.

The EPA has cited Keystone as one of the nation's worst polluted sites and has placed the landfill on its Superfund cleanup list.

The agency has been working with 12 polluters to cap a portion of the landfill but no actual work has begun, said Amy Barnett, an EPA community relations coordinator.

"I can understand their point -- that things are moving slow," Ms.Barnett said of the Silver Run residents. "There are a number of parties we're dealing with to get set for capping. It's time-consuming. It's a little easier to deal with one party, but in the case of this landfill we don't have that option."

Under the cleanup proposal, a 2.6-acre portion of the 35-acre landfill will be capped to prevent further seepage of contaminants.

"The design process takes about a year to 18 months," she said. "We're currently in that process."

Ms. Barnett said work could begin next fall.

Attending the meeting from the EPA will be Ms. Barnett; Donna Santiago, the new project manager; David Turner, the former project manager; and their supervisor, Jeff Pike.

The landfill's owners, Kenny and Anna Noel, also have been invited to the meeting, Mrs. Hardinger said.

Carroll's county commissioners, the county environmental staff and other elected officials have been invited, as well.

Other concerns raised by PACE include:

* The lack of well testing in the Silver Run area. Residents contend that they don't know what kind of water they are drinking.

As part of the project, the agency is seeking the cleanup of surrounding ground water, Ms. Barnett said.

The EPA plans to begin testing residential wells soon for contamination. The testing will extend two miles into Maryland and one mile into Pennsylvania from the landfill.

Ms. Barnett said the EPA has done some limited testing, "which hasn't shown any levels of contamination that we need to do something with."

* The EPA's private meetings with residents. Some PACE members object to the "closed-door" meetings, in which agency officials meet one-on-one with residents concerned about well contamination.

"It's a joke," said Mrs. Hardinger. "It's public relations-community relations thing. They know what the problems are."

Ms. Barnett said, however, that the meetings are needed to coordinate the EPA's community relations efforts. The meetings help the EPA learn about specific problems and keep the public informed on the process.

"There's nothing secret about the meetings," she said.

The EPA plans to release a revised community relations program -- addressing some of the concerns and issues raised by residents during interviews -- in January.

* Switching project managers. Mrs. Hardinger said the EPA has changed project managers several times during the past nine years. The changes, PACE members contend, hinder the cleanup because each new manager must take time to learn of the problems.

L Ms. Barnett has conceded that such changes slow the process.

"We realize there's a lot of stuff to know at this site," Ms. Barnett said. "This is a good way to do it."

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