Fayette contamination: Don't deny there was a problem 2009.07.29

The long saga of contamination problems from the former Fayette Tubular Products added a chapter earlier this month when the Ohio EPA presented its preferred plan for cleaning up the site.

In short, the proposal calls for continuation of the existing water filtration system and allowing contamination on the former school property to dissipate through “natural attenuation.” The Ohio EPA’s modeling technique shows the shallow ground water reaching drinking water standards “in approximately 300 years.”

The proposal also calls for a plan to seal the floor in the factory building where Fayette Tubular was located and to allow no development on the former school site, as specified in an agreement with DH Holdings, the company charged with cleaning up the site.

At the last village council meeting, a statement was made about the lack of contamination at the former school site, with one council member pointing out there never was contamination there.

It’s correct that soil contamination was never an issue there—that’s a problem near the former degreasing room at the factory—but it’s a different story in regard to ground water contamination.

The presence of toxic pollutants is well documented—both in ground water and at one time inside the school building in the form of vapors. As the Ohio EPA pointed out at the hearing, contaminants never reached the stage known to cause health problems for students and staff members, but school officials and many parents weren’t content to wait and see if that day would ever arrive.

The concentration of substances in ground water fluctuated from month to month and it still does. The extent of the plume of contaminated water always moved and that’s continuing.

There seems to be a belief among some residents that there never was a problem at the school site, but that is not correct. The issue is fully documented in materials available from the Ohio EPA and it’s been thoroughly covered in this newspaper for 15 years.

DH Holdings spent an estimated million dollars in relocating the village water supply after contaminants were found there and another $3.5 million in a settlement with the school district. In addition, the firm has an agreement in place to prohibit development on the school property forever. That’s quite an expenditure to make for “no problem.”

It’s troublesome to hear people suggest that there is no problem and never was a problem. It’s almost like a denial of what’s been clearly documented for years and years.

We’re not trying to be alarmist about the situation—we hope there never is a reason for alarm—but we’re not content to watch it be swept under the carpet and forgotten about.

The Ohio EPA is giving residents until Aug. 3 to make comments and ask questions about the preferred cleanup plan. Take a look at the plan—it’s available at the library—and maybe you will have some questions of your own.

There are still many facets of the saga that remain unanswered.