EPA denies Silver Run group a voice in cleanup Keystone landfill is Superfund site

January 06, 1993|By Greg Tasker | Greg Tasker,Staff Writer

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has told Silver Ru citizens that it will not allow their group to attend meetings regarding the cleanup of a nearby Pennsylvania landfill that may be polluting their wells.

People Against Contamination of the Environment Inc. had asked the federal agency in late November, at a public meeting in Silver Run, to let residents from Maryland and Pennsylvania communities near the Keystone Sanitation Landfill attend future meetings regarding the proposed Superfund cleanup.

But in a "fact sheet" sent out to residents late last month, the EPA stated that, "Allowing citizen representatives to attend all meetings concerning the site is not possible. Often issues that are enforcement sensitive or confidential arise in the meetings."

Amy Barnett, an EPA community relations coordinator, said yesterday that to the agency's knowledge no citizen representatives have ever had a direct role in the cleanup process.

PACE members were angered and disappointed by EPA's response.

"We understand that we can't go to every single meeting," said Susan Hardinger, PACE's president. "Our request included a component that we wanted to be informed about meetings and what they're about. Surely, we should be able to go to some meetings."

Ms. Hardinger said PACE members are upset by the EPA's response to most of the group's requests, which included improving communication and testing of all residential wells within a two-mile radius of the dump site.

"People are pretty ticked off at the lack of response from the [public] meeting," she said. "[EPA] "didn't take us seriously. They didn't address the meat of our concerns. We got pretty pat answers."

The EPA has been working with 11 polluters to cap a portion of the 35-acre landfill in Union Township, Pa. Under agency orders, the polluters have hired a contractor to do the cleanup, expected to begin within 15 to 18 months.

Concerned about the slow cleanup -- the issue has been festering for a decade -- PACE members and Pennsylvania residents pressed EPA officials for a greater voice in the project. The EPA named the Keystone dump as a Superfund site in 1987, four years after the agency began investigating well pollution in the area.

Ms. Barnett said testing all wells within a two-mile radius of the Keystone site -- as the residents had asked -- is not feasible. All of the wells don't need to be tested to complete an accurate study, she said.

As part of the Superfund project, the agency is seeking the cleanup of surrounding ground water. The U.S. Geological Service and the EPA will determine which wells will be tested, Ms. Barnett said.

"We have to have scientific reasons for testing all wells," Ms. Barnett said. "Our experience has been based on test samples rather than testing all wells. It has worked in the past. We don't feel it's necessary to test all the wells in those areas."

The PACE group also had asked to be able to deal with EPA officials directly, instead of going through the community relations staff.

That request, Ms. Barnett said, "came through loud and clear." But she said EPA's community relations staff is the channel for information.

"Every bit of that information I give out comes from the technical people," Ms. Barnett said. "All questions are addressed by technical people. As far as getting information out, there has to be somebody in that role. There are a number of people doing my job at other sites."

Still dissatisfied with EPA's handling of the cleanup, PACE members have asked U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Maryland, to meet with them and to discuss their concerns. Ms. Mikulski has )) suggested that such a meeting should include EPA representatives responsible for the Keystone site, Ms. Hardinger said.

A representative from Sen. Mikulski's office could not be reached for comment yesterday.

"We want to tell [the senator] what the problems are with EPA," Ms. Hardinger said. "The system is not working, and as a member of Congress she needs to know that."

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