Residents upset by EPA decision to negotiate on landfill cleanup Keystone owner allowed to study cap alternative

July 23, 1998|By Donna R. Engle | Donna R. Engle,SUN STAFF

The Environmental Protection Agency's decision to negotiate with the owners of Keystone Landfill over an alternative to capping the former dump has angered citizens groups.

EPA officials revealed at a meeting Tuesday night that they are negotiating with owners of the Superfund site for an alternative to capping the landfill. A impermeable cap was initially proposed as part of the program to clean up the contaminated site. When citizens groups in Pennsylvania and Carroll County proposed discussing alternatives to capping in 1995, EPA officials rejected the initiative.

"As far as the community's proposal to discuss it, we never even got to the table," Susan D. Hardinger, president of the Silver Run-area citizens group, People Against Contamination of the Environment, told EPA officials Tuesday.

"What you have proposed here is pathetic," Hardinger said.

She said the agency appears to have formed a team with landfill owners, and the community no longer trusts the agency to act in the interests of residents.

Keystone, a closed private landfill owned by Waste Management of Pennsylvania Inc., is 300 yards north of the Mason-Dixon Line. The citizens groups have been working for 15 years to get the landfill cleaned up. Keystone was placed on EPA's Superfund cleanup list in 1987. Waste Management bought the landfill last year from longtime owners Kenneth and Anna Noel.

Ruth Scharr, the EPA's Keystone project manager, said the agency is allowing Waste Management officials to study an alternative to capping the landfill "in an effort to give them an opportunity to demonstrate that this is a viable alternative."

The EPA also drew fire for its revised cleanup proposal, the successor to a 1990 plan that dealt with cleanup only on the 40-acre Keystone property. The new proposal covers elimination of contamination beyond the property.

The revised plan, however, concludes that the landfill is not the source of well contamination along Humbert Schoolhouse Road in northern Carroll County. The plan offers well filters to only one rTC of five Maryland homes within three-quarters of a mile of the landfill.

Regarding the capping alternative, Mary D. Minor, president of Citizens Urge Rescue of the Environment of Union Township, Pa., said the local initiative to consider alternatives was tied to other protective measures.

"We knew it would leave us at greater risk, but we were willing to sit down and discuss it if we could have a buffer zone" and other protective measures, she said.

The EPA rejected that initiative three years ago, arguing that Pennsylvania law required a cap. But Richard Morgan of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection said his agency would "consider a no-cap alternative for accelerating the cleanup." The department will waive the capping requirement on an EPA recommendation, he said.

The alternative to capping is called vacuum extraction, a system that sucks soil, air and water into a piping system. The system separates water for treatment. The air absorbs chemicals from the soil, which are then captured on carbon for incineration.

Christopher J. Corbett of EPA, a former Keystone manager, said agency will allow public comment before dropping the idea of an impermeable cap, which would prevent rainwater from seeping into the closed landfill and absorbing contaminants that would be carried to ground water supplies.

"We're far and away from being ready to present this to the community," Corbett said.

Scharr said she couldn't provide any information about vacuum extraction, but believed it would be less costly than capping.

Pub Date: 7/23/98

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