MARIETTA - Work has finally begun on a project aimed at preventing hazardous chemicals buried at the former Cytec Industries site in Marietta from polluting groundwater in that area.
The capping of the former location of Cytec buildings 60 and 62, which included a concrete storage bay and concrete tank saddle at the north end of the 54-acre site, is expected to continue through the end of this month, according to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, which is overseeing the work.
"Buildings 60 and 62 were demolished in 1996, and (Ohio EPA's) initial sampling and analysis occurred in this area in January and February 2002. Soils in this area contained primarily nitrobenzene and DDT," Ohio EPA media relations coordinator Erin Strouse said in an emailed statement Monday.
"An evaluation of remedial alternatives determined that a protective and cost-effective remedy was to place a cap over contaminated soils in this area," she continued. "This routine cap work began on June 4th and is expected to continue for the next few weeks."
On Oct. 3, 2012, after several years of review and public meetings, OEPA issued Cytec a final permit modification that included the capping of the buildings 60 and 62 area with special impermeable "geomembrane" sheeting as one of the remedies
The work was announced during last week's regularly-scheduled meeting of a community focus group formed to help facilitate an ongoing dialogue with Cytec related to cleanup efforts at the site.
"Unfortunately a large crowd didn't show up for this meeting," said Jonathan Hupp, Marietta's safety-service director.
He said representatives from Cytec and the property remediation contractor, Arcadis U.S. of Pittsburgh, were on hand to explain the capping project, which includes installing the geomembrane layer to keep stormwater from seeping into the soil underneath the cap.
A drainage layer will also be installed to drain water away from the cap, and a foot of clean fill dirt will be placed on top of that to protect the underlying layers.
Six inches of topsoil will complete the layered area that will be seeded with native grass for cover vegetation.
The cap will be monitored regularly and repaired as needed to maintain the cap into the future.
"The contractor also assured the community there would be no excessive dust, noise or odor during the process," Hupp said, adding that equipment monitoring for those conditions has been installed at the site.
Next fall a second, much larger, remediation project will also be performed to seal off a former landfill area at the industrial site. That project is expected to begin in September.
But local officials and residents have said the remedies approved for Cytec's cleanup of the site by OEPA won't adequately address the potential for further contamination of nearby Duck Creek and surrounding properties, nor will they make the former industrial site a suitable location for businesses in the future.
Washington County Commissioner David White attended last week's focus group session and also noted the attendance was pretty light.
"I think a lot of people have just quit going to these meetings because they know there are no other steps that can be taken to clean up the site since Ohio EPA has approved Cytec's permit modification," he said. "They know the final cleanup decision has been made."
White said the capping of the buildings 60 and 62 area and monitoring of groundwater will help lower the risk of contamination being washed out of that location, although he believes the best solution would be to remove all contaminated soils from the site and replace it with clean fill. But the cost would be high.
The remedies approved by OEPA in Cytec's permit modification are expected to cost the company an estimated $1 million, but removal of all contamination and restoration of the property could run more than $13 million.
As a public official, White said he plans to continue attending the focus group sessions.
"The meetings are to get information out about the remediation project, and I need to be prepared to answer any questions my constituents may have about it," he said. "I have to keep up with the project."
But Eric Fitch, a Marietta resident and director of the environmental science program at Marietta College, said he, too, has given up on attending the focus sessions.
"I think people are finally saying 'Why are we watching this?'" he said. "In the beginning they believed the OEPA might listen to us, but (since the Cytec cleanup permit modification was approved) these have basically become public relations meetings for Cytec."
Fitch said he believes the plan to cap the buildings 60 and 62 area may work for water moving vertically through the soil which will run off the geomembrane and drain away from the contaminated area.
"But what about lateral movement of the groundwater?" he asked. "They don't really know what's in that capped area."
Fitch noted the area to be capped was the former location of experimental laboratories as well as a DDT manufacturing site.
"I think this project will do what they've planned, but I have my doubts," he said. "It may have some impact, but the only way to clean the site is to remove all contamination and bring in clean fill."