Ruling unlikely to lift site from Superfund list

March 01, 1994|By Donna E. Boller | Donna E. Boller,Sun Staff Writer

A federal judge's ruling that water contamination on two nearby farms cannot be traced to the Keystone landfill is not expected to take the landfill off the Superfund list.

But the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is studying a request from attorneys for the landfill owners to drop plans for cleanup outside the site's borders, EPA spokesman Harold Yates said yesterday. That request came after the Feb. 10 decision favoring landfill owners Kenneth and Anna Noel.

Mr. Yates said EPA staff members have not finished studying technical and legal aspects of the judge's ruling. But a preliminary review shows no reason to take the landfill off the Superfund list, he said.

"Here at EPA we're proceeding with the cleanup of the Keystone landfill despite the recent ruling," Mr. Yates said. He said the decision gave EPA officials "no reason to change our course of action."

Sylvia H. Rambo, chief U.S. District Court judge for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, ruled in favor of the Noels, who own Keystone Sanitation Co.

The lawsuit was filed by two couples, Timothy and Marcia Brown, owners of a dairy farm on Line Road in Carroll County, and Cloyd and Dorothy Willow, who raise beef cattle on property adjoining the landfill in Adams County, Pa.

The privately owned landfill is in Adams County about 300 yards from northern Carroll County. It was placed on the Superfund list of most serious pollution sites in 1987 and closed in 1990.

Robert B. Hoffman, the Noels' attorney, said a letter he received from the EPA yesterday said the agency is not changing its cleanup plan for the areas outside the landfill.

He said the federal agency's response is basically, "We're not going to change our minds. The court is going to have to tell us to change. "

The two sides will be in U.S. District Court again for a suit the EPA filed last summer seeking to recover costs from the agencies identified as responsible for the contamination.

Mr. Hoffman said the landfill owners and about 10 businesses and industries identified by the EPA as responsible for placing contaminants in the landfill asked the agency to reconsider its cleanup plan after Judge Rambo's decision.

The judge concluded that although it was possible for hazardous substances from the landfill to reach the Brown property, the plaintiffs didn't prove that had happened.

She cited Mrs. Brown's testimony that the couple moved their dairy cattle to a Pennsylvania farm after the animals failed to grow and thrive when they drank water from a hand-dug well on the Line Road farm.

"This court has found that the problems with the Browns' livestock are more likely attributable to naturally occurring contaminants on the Brown property,," the judge wrote.

Judge Rambo said the Willows did not prove that water containing pollutants entered their property.

The cleanup effort is currently focusing on testing well water from 30 houses in the landfill's neighborhood, Mr. Yates said. He said test results should show whether there is any immediate problem or need for alternative water sources.

The agency also plans to use the data in its cleanup plan for areas outside the landfill site.

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