The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has decided to begin investigating ground-water contamination that has spread from the Keystone Sanitary Landfill in Pennsylvania to drinking water wells in northern Carroll County, as well as other areas.
"We're pleased with this decision because this way the EPA can go ahead and start remedial cleanup and it will speed things up," Susan Hardinger, president of People Against Contamination of the Environment, said yesterday.
"There's a real spirit of optimism in the community now after years of distrust with the EPA."
PACE is composed mainly of Silver Run-area property owners.
Marylanders have been complaining for about 10 years that toxic substances dumped at the private landfill, just over the state line, have been seeping into ground water and making their well water dangerous to drink.
The Philadelphia office of the EPA announced Monday that it will perform a "remedial investigation/feasibility study for off-site groundwater contamination" from the landfill in Union Township, Adams County.
EPA has estimated that it will cost $67 million to clean up the closed 35-acre landfill, which is a Superfund site.
"The EPA is ready to roll on mapping out contaminated off-sites, and that's what we wanted because so many people can't use their water," Ms. Hardinger said. "The new EPA manager, Christopher Corbett, has been great. He really seems to be going to bat for the community.
"Mr. Corbett has already mapped out a residential testing plan to begin after the first of the year. The EPA plans to fence the landfill within 60 days and put up signs warning that it is a Superfund site, which is what we wanted and they kept telling us they couldn't do."
EPA officials say their usual procedure in cleaning up a Superfund site is to identify the individuals or businesses responsible for the contamination and require them to arrange for the cleanup and pay for it. In the Keystone case, that process has dragged on for years without accomplishing any actual cleanup.
At an informational meeting Nov. 16 in Silver Run, Mr. Corbett, a hydro-geologist, told residents the EPA was not satisfied with the third set of work plans drawn up by 11 polluters that had been under agency orders to clean up the landfill.
Rather than accept further delay, he said, the EPA decided to contract to perform the work, then try to recover the cost from the polluters.
Mr. Corbett said the EPA would draft a new work plan to: vent gases from the landfill; fence the property to prevent people from walking onto the site; cap the landfill with impermeable clay to keep rainwater from percolating through the buried wastes; and pump and treat contaminated water.
He said cleanup work at the landfill could begin in about one year.
Ms. Hardinger said residents can expect years of monitoring of their well water, but not everyone needs to wait that long to learn if their water is safe to drink.
Water will be tested and then monitored in future years, she said.