Public input urged for proposed Blades Superfund NPL listing

BLADES — In hopes of landing long-term federal assistance in remediation, community input and engagement is sought by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from a Blades community whose groundwater is contaminated with chemicals and metals linked to commercial electroplating.

Several hundred people filled the Blades Fire Hall Thursday night for a public meeting held by federal and state environmental officials on the proposal of adding the Blades Groundwater Site to the Superfund National Priorities List.
“We want your input on this proposal. In this portion of the Superfund process, you have an opportunity to submit official public comment,” said Amanda Miles, Community Involvement Coordinator with EPA. “Until after the response, we can’t move forward with listing the site. This really is a key element of the proposal.”

“If the Blades Groundwater Site is to be listed to the National Priority List there is many community resources that are available,” said Ms. Miles.
Delaware’s Department of Public Health also attended the Dec. 5 meeting.

In February 2018, DNREC began treating the town of Blades’ public water supply with a carbon filtration system after officials announced electroplating compounds – concentrations of perfluorinated compounds (PFAS) and hazardous metals – above the human health advisory level of 70 parts per trillion were detected in the town’s three wells used for drinking, cooking and household use.

Most recent testing in September and November indicates Blades’ municipal drinking water continues to meet federal and state drinking water standards.
EPA has installed carbon filtration at private wells of several residences outside the town of Blades limits.

Proposed NPL listing will allow EPA to use Superfund authority and resources to work with Delaware’s Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control to resolve groundwater concerns in the Blades area.
The Blades site was proposed for NPL on Nov. 8, 2019. EPA does listings twice a year.
“It is not yet on the listing. It is being proposed to be on the National Priority List. It is open right now for public comment until Jan. 7 (2020),” said Ms. Miles. “The process after that is, we review all of the comments we receive. We do a response and then depending on what the responses are and the comments we receive, there are two listings a year. EPA does a listing in the spring and the fall. If it was to be listed, it would fall under the spring listing.”

Primary groundwater contaminants are metals associated with electroplating compounds. Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), namely perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), have also been found in groundwater and in eight residential wells and three public supply wells in the Nanticoke and Columbia Aquifers, according to the EPA.

Town of Blades residents and those residing outside the limits had questions and concerns.
Stephanie Angelis, who resides west of town limits, said the emphasis at public meetings thus far has been on those in-town residents.

“Many of us sitting here are not in the corporate limits. We have private wells. Please do some more talking to us about our wells, our private wells and how you are going to handle this Superfund,” said Ms. Angelis. “We are not part of Blades and we feel we are being left out.”
Ms. Angelis told officials her private well was “sampled twice, by two different groups, sent to two different labs, with two different results. So, is my well contaminated? Or is it not?” said Ms. Angelis. “You didn’t seem to care about the people outside the limits who had questions on their private wells.”

“We will as part of the remedial investigation do additional residential wells. We won’t just rely on what was done before,” said Charlie Root, EPA’s Chief of the Delaware, Virginia and West Virginia Remedial Section. “We will do an additional round of sampling. We will make the public know.”
“We’re going to do a comprehensive residential well sampling as part of the future remedial investigation,” said Mr. Root. “We will clean up the ground water to useable drinking water standards for the entre plume that is contaminated, no matter where it is. We will pick remedies to try to clean it all up to beneficial use, which would mean no one would have to have treatment units on their wells. We won’t be bound by municipal boundaries. Our investigation is usually bounded by people who are willing to allow us to sample. As long as people allow us to sample, we will figure out the bounds of where the contamination is.”

Daniel Taylor, EPA Remedial Project Manager, said 56 wells outside of Blades’ town boundary were sampled, and of those 56, seven were provided carbon filtration systems.
Remedial investigation is part of the NPL listing process.

“We want to identify the nature and extent of contamination,” said Mr. Taylor. “This includes what the contamination is, what those concentrations are, and where the contaminants might be going or where they might be migrating.”
Risk assessment to determine human and environmental risks, hazardous remedy ranking, method of cleanup and proposed remediation plan are other components in the listing process.

“Once this site meets all environmental, technical and legal requirements it can be deleted from the national priority list,” said Mr. Taylor.
Connor O’Loughlin, EPA Region 3 Site Assessment Manager, said EPA has been looking at various sites in Blades for several decades to identify facilities and sources of contamination.

“The two facilities in particular are electroplating facilities that the EPA has been looking at since the mid-1990s – one is called Peninsula Plating, one is called Procino Plating,” Mr. O’Loughlin said. “These sites have been of interest for many years, since the early 1990s. In the future, EPA will also be looking at other sites ongoing.”

“Obviously, we will want to focus our investigation on the areas where we think are sources,” said Mr. Root. “So, we identify where we think the sources are. We will attempt to collect additional, more detailed samples on those locations. That hopefully will identify where there is an ongoing source.”

According to Mr. Taylor, Peninsula Plating stopped operation in 2004, and Procino Plating is still in operation.
That drew an inquiry and concern about possible continued and ongoing contamination.
According to Tim Ratsep, Director of DNREC’s Division of Waste and Hazardous Substances, Procino Plating is regulated, and any kind of releases are regulated under the state program through permits. “We are regulating that facility and if there are issues or concerns the state is addressing that,” Mr. Ratsep said.

Ms. Angelis asked if groundwater contamination might continue to spread out.
As part of remedial investigation, Mr. Taylor said EPA “will also be trying to determine where the source area exists. So, by removing the source the ultimate goal is so that the plume will eventually lessen.
If Blades makes the NPL, there is no definite timeline to project completion.

“It is hard to give a very discrete timeline of how long it will take to clean up the site,” said Mr. Taylor, noting there is a remedial investigation phase and a feasibility study which will evaluate alternatives. “Once we know the cleanup plans in the Record of Decision, we would most likely have a better timeline of how long this will take. Usually our remedial investigation phase would take around the timeline of like three to four years.”

Mr. Root said the average timeline for Superfund sites historically is “seven to 10 years from the start of the investigation to when construction starts. If we find concentrations that require immediate action, we will mobilize our removal program.”
“Typically, groundwater cleanups take some time,” Mr. Root said. “Depending on the remedy it can take from a few years to clean up … to some remedies that go on for 20, 30 years to really get to where you can have a useable aquifer again, where you don’t any worry of having to have treatment on the water.”

Property values
The panel was questioned about the impact of the contamination site on property values.
“Over time our ultimate goal is to restore the groundwater back to beneficial use.,” said Mr. Taylor. “Productive reuse of a site always associates with increase economic value of an area.”
“Obviously, there can be an impact initially to property values. We’re not going to say that is not a concern,” said Mr. Root. “However, over time and with experience once we learn more about where and the extent of the contamination, and the concentrations, and who and what is affected by it, we can then share that information with property owners. They can use that information to inform buyers in the future of the status of what their property is. We can’t share it with everyone.

“There have been many, many properties that have been bought and sold on Superfund sites, and the value of property may be affected; it may not be affected. It depends on where and what the use of that property is.”
Health issues
It was stated at the meeting at the most common types of cancer associated with these classes of chemicals are kidney and testicular cancer.

Jamie Mack of the Delaware Division of Public Health alerted residents to a new webpage launched earlier this year: My Healthy Community, which provides a snapshot of health data.
“As we see some of the concerns that the community here has we can adopt that webpage by adding some specific information related to the cancers in the area or some of the other concerns, so we can help the public be more educated on what some of those health effects may be,” said Mr. Mack.

The process will include a study, according to Karl Markiewicz, a toxicologist with the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, which is a federal public health agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

“I don’t want any confusion. It’s not a study in a classical sense of the term where we’re going to actually go out and study people,” said Mr. Markiewicz. “What we are going to produce is what we call a public health assessment document, look at environmental data, relevant health outcome data. We look historic exposure, current exposure and future exposure.
“As an example, we know the groundwater was contaminated and people drank it, so ingestion of contaminated groundwater is a completed pathway and we will evaluate that.”

Public comment
EPA is accepting public comment through Jan. 7, 2020.
Online comments can be submitted to: www.regulations.gov (search for “EPA-HQ-OLEM-2019-0484).

Comments by mail should to be sent to: U.S Environmental Protection Agency, EPA Docket Center, Docket # EPA-HQ-OLEM-2019-0484, Mail Code 28221T, 1200 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, D.C. 20460.

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