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December 1, 2002

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Agencies: water near CSD isn't polluted
EPA, township find no contamination of wells or streams

Thursday, November 28, 2002


Enterprise Staff Writer

WBNS-10TV will examine the Columbus Steel Drum controversy at 11 p.m. Sunday.

In addition, WBNS and The Columbus Dispatch will provide comprehensive coverage of next Thursday's court proceedings.


More on the story

Government agencies say concerns about water pollution coming from the Columbus Steel Drum facility are unfounded.

Area residents have said they are as concerned about waste water from the site contaminating local streams and wells as they are about fumes escaping from the plant. Concerns over Columbus Steel Drum air emissions have sparked legal action from the Ohio Attorney General's Office.

Ohio Environmental Protection Agency representatives and local water officials say there is no evidence to indicate any water threat from the facility.

The site is just 1,500 feet northeast of the Jefferson Water and Sewer District well field, which provides water to about 1,700 Jefferson Township homes.

District administrator Bob Stewart said wells around the perimeter of the district's well field are tested annually to detect any contamination of the aquifer.

In the 15 years the well field has existed, Stewart said, tests have always been negative.

"Our well field is completely safe," Stewart said. "If any contamination were to show up, we do have about five years before it would get to our aquifer. The type of soil we have, which is heavy clay, is very dense and it is like a sealant. Contaminants would have a hard time going down as deep as what our wells are. I would say that is true of private wells too."

Surface water at the Columbus Steel Drum facility drains into a series of three ponds. As the water flows from one pond to the other, sediment settles to the bottom. That sediment is periodically dredged from the ponds, most recently in October.

Eventually, the water flows through an underground drain into a small ditch known as the Unzinger Ditch. The water from the Unzinger Ditch flows south, past Broad Street and into the Blacklick Creek.

While EPA tests have showed elevated levels of some metals and organic compounds in the ditch, these contaminants have not made their way into Blacklick Creek, said EPA spokesman David O'Toole.

"We haven't seemed to find any evidence of major contamination extending off the site anywhere," O'Toole said. "There might be some shallow, on-site stuff there, but it hasn't reached the major aquifer system."

While cadmium, zinc, chromium, arsenic and lead have been detected as recently as the spring of 2001 in the Unzinger Ditch, those levels do not exceed drinking water standards, O'Toole said.

"People say we're polluting the ground water, we have proof were not," Columbus Steel Drum operations manager Ron Grannan said. "What people say and what is actually going on are two completely separate items. We're testing all the time for this. If we were that absolutely miserable, we'd have been closed years and years ago."

O'Toole said the EPA has been working with Franklin Steel Co. -- which owns the property and plant operated by Columbus Steel Drum -- to clean up soil contamination on the site.

Out of more than 200 soil samples taken, O'Toole said between six and 10 showed contaminants. Those areas, he said, will be excavated to remove as much as the top four feet of soil.

Grannan said the company has been testing water at the site monthly since taking over the operation in January 2001.

"Those tests are coming back fine," Grannan said. "With what we have spent and with the studies were going to undertake, we've done more in the last two years than the previous owners have done in 30 years."

Lou Smith, chairman of the Rocky Fork Creek Task Force, said he and other task force members are concerned about long-term water quality.

"If it's on the site, it's going to run off at some point," he said. "It's a concern about what can happen. Ground water that seeps into the ground on the site can go anywhere."

The extent to which the company has been effective in solving its air quality and odor problem will be determined at a Dec. 5 hearing before Judge Richard C. Pfeiffer of the Franklin County Municipal Court's environmental division.

Pfeiffer is expected to rule on a request for injunctive relief filed against the company earlier this month by Ohio Attorney General Betty D. Montgomery's office.

Grannan said he is still hopeful that attorneys representing the company will reach an out-of-court agreement with the attorney general's office before the hearing.

To Smith, such an agreement would be far from good news. "I think the issue needs to be brought out into the open," he said. "Because of their poor track record - this has been going on for so many years - if they can't resolve these things immediately, I think they should be shut down until everything thing has been corrected."

Columbus Steel Drum on Blatt Avenue uses a caustic chemical, sodium hydroxide, to clean 55-gallon drums used to store commercial products such as paint, oils and cleaning solvents. It also uses a high-temperature furnace to crystallize and dry materials in the drums.

<b>msegaloff@thisweeknews.com



 
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