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Published Sunday, December 2, 2001, in the Akron Beacon Journal.

Dump cleanup costliest for parks

Toxic waste removal at Cuyahoga Valley site adds up to $60 million

BY BOB DOWNING
Beacon Journal staff writer

In 1940, John Krejci opened a small Cuyahoga Valley junkyard, a place where trash could be burned and scrap metal dumped.

But the junkyard secretly became much more than that.

For many years, industries turned to the site off Hines Hill Road in northern Summit County when they wanted to dispose of hazardous chemicals.

That toxic truth came out in 1986, after the land had become part of the Cuyahoga Valley National Recreational Area. Since then, nearly $30 million has been spent to clean up two tracts, totaling 47 acres, within the park.

Now the federal government has devised a new plan to complete the cleanup. And the price tag to remove large amounts of contaminated soils and debris is another $30 million.

The Krejci dump has -- at $60 million -- become the site of the costliest cleanup within the federal park system, said Shawn Mulligan, an attorney with the National Park Service.

His agency will hold a public hearing on its new cleanup plan at 7 p.m. Dec. 17 in the park's Happy Days Visitor Center off state Route 303 in Boston Heights. It is also accepting public comment on the plan until Jan. 11.

The park service and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency will then make a final decision on how to proceed.

The recommended option is ``a very protective remedy,'' Mulligan said.

Cleanup plan

The federal plan calls for removal of the contaminated soil, under park service supervision. The work would be paid for by the Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Corp., companies that have admitted dumping at the site. The work would be done by a contractor hired by the two companies.

The cleanup could begin late next year or in early 2003 and could take up to three years to complete, Mulligan said.

``It (the site) will be fully remediated and restored,'' he said.

In one area of the old dump, up to 18 inches of contaminated soil would be removed; in the other area, up to 6 inches of soil would be taken off.

There are slopes in the area blanketed with thick layers of foundry slag and deep ravines filled with trash and contaminated soils. Nearly 51,000 cubic yards of debris and contaminated soil would be hauled away to a hazardous-waste landfill for disposal.

The site would then be regraded with topsoil and planted with vegetation.

The contaminated soils at the old dump are laced with an array of toxic chemicals, including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dioxins-furans, benzene, arsenic, aldrin and polyaromatic hydrocarbons. There are high levels of toxic heavy metals, including lead, selenium, copper, aluminum and iron.

This cleanup option was selected by park and EPA officials over five other alternatives, ranging from taking no action to covering the sites with clay and synthetic caps to treating the contaminated soil to removing the toxic chemicals.

The options ranged in price as high as $57.5 million to treat most of the contaminated soil.

The Krejci property is being cleaned up largely because of the threat it poses to mammals, birds and fish, not people.

Under federal law, such toxic waste dumps must be cleaned up if they are a threat to human health or the environment. The Krejci site qualifies as an environmental threat, Mulligan said.

The site has 14 separate areas of contamination, which pose little risk to ground water in the area. Chemicals, however, could wash into streams and threaten wildlife.

The contamination could pose ``a potential significant impact'' to the environment, the park service said in assessing the risk.

A legal battle has been waged over the first $30 million phase of the Krejci cleanup. That fight will continue this week before U.S. District Judge David Dowd in Akron.

Cleanup costs

One firm that dumped at the site, Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Co. (3M), has been ordered by Dowd to pay nearly $24 million plus back interest to cover past cleanup costs.

Five other companies -- Chrysler, Waste Management, Kewanee Industries Inc., Chevron USA Inc. and Federal Metals -- had earlier agreed to pay nearly $4.8 million plus interest.

Those agreements must still be approved by Dowd.

However, 3M has filed counterclaims, alleging that the National Park Service should share in the cleanup costs and that the federal government should have gotten more money from the other polluters.

In 1987, the cost of cleaning up the Krecji dump was estimated at $7 million. That price rose after testing showed the contamination to be more severe than had been thought, Mulligan said.

``No one really knew until it was fully investigated,'' he said.

The Krejci (pronounced Cretch-ee) dump looks like other meadows and woods in the Cuyahoga Valley. The only things that make it stand out are the fences and warning signs.

The dump is located on both sides of Interstate 271 in Boston and Northfield Center townships. Nearby streams include Brandywine Creek, a Cuyahoga River tributary and Stanford Run.

The Krecji site covers 42 acres north of I-271, of which 19 acres were used for dumping. The other tract covers 192 acres, with dumping on 28 acres.

Park officials had no idea they were buying a toxic-waste dump after the park was created in 1974. They thought they were simply buying an old junkyard.

The dump was closed in the 1960s, but Krejci's salvage operations continued until 1985.

In 1986, a resident complained of becoming ill after collecting bottles on the site. Park rangers complained of chemical odors, rashes and headaches.

A U.S. EPA inspection revealed 5,000 leaking drums filled with solvents, paint wastes, industrial sludges and herbicides.

Testing and cleanup of the surface materials began in 1987. The barrels and contaminated scrap, along with 700 tons of contaminated soils, have been removed under the supervision of the federal Bureau of Land Management.

The site has received relatively little public attention, largely because no contamination has leaked off-site or affected neighbors, officials said.

In April 1997, the U.S. Justice Department sued to recoup cleanup costs from the companies it had identified as the major polluters.
Bob Downing can be reached at 330-996-3745 or bdowning@thebeaconjournal.com

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Updated 9:25 a.m., December 2, 2001

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