CLINTON — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 7 is inviting the public to comment on the proposed permit renewal and final remedy selection for the process sewer system at the Equistar Chemicals facility in Clinton.

The public comment period started June 18 and will end Aug. 2. The EPA is holding a public availability session on July 10 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Camanche Fire Station, 917 Third St. in Camanche. Representatives from the EPA and Equistar will be available to answer questions about the proposed permit renewal and final remedy selection.

The Chemplex facility was constructed in 1967 and is located five miles west of Clinton, south of U.S. 30 and west of U.S. 67. According to a June 2007 EPA Fact Sheet, Equistar Chemicals owns and operates a 230-acre, high-density and low-density polyethylene manufacturing plant on the 700-acre Chemplex Superfund site. American Chemical Co. and Getty Chemical Co. operated the plant until 1984 and are the current owners of the seven-acre landfill area on the western portion of the site. Equistar Chemicals currently operates the plant and owns the plant property, excluding the landfill area. The Equistar Chemicals’ facility is a part of the groundwater cleanup activities and Equistar Chemicals is involved in the cleanup. The EPA is working with the community to evaluate possible changes in the groundwater remedy and will hold a separate public comment period to address any proposed changes in the groundwater remedy.

According to EPA fact sheets, groundwater and soil at the site were contaminated due to past waste disposal practices.

The contaminants of concern at the site are volatile organic compounds and polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons in the form of Perchloroethylene (PCE), Dichloroethylene (DCE) and Trichloroethylene (TCE).

The site was identified as a potentially uncontrolled hazardous waste site and proposed for the National Priorities List in 1984. The site was removed from the list in 1991 under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.

The EPA has been working with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and Citigroup and ChevronTexaco, or ACC/GCC, to clean up the site. The initial cleanup plan was approved in 1989. The site was managed in two units, one addressing groundwater contamination through an extraction and treatment remedy that has been in operation since May 1994. The second unit addressed contaminated soil and waste at the site by capping and soil vapor extraction.

That remedy began in 1998 and ceased operation in 2003 because it met the shutoff criteria established. Through 2003, over 23,000 pounds of VOCs had been recovered from the site via groundwater extraction and treatment.

In the last two Five Year Review reports in 1999 and 2004, experts reported the remedy at the site was protective of human health and the environment. But in the 2004 report, the EPA concluded that a plan was needed to address the inability of the current pump and treat system to contain contaminated groundwater in the designated area. The EPA requested that ACC/GCC prepare a Focused Feasibility Study to evaluate potential alternatives to the existing extraction and treatment system.

In May, Nancy Swyers, remedial project manager for the United States Environmental Protection Agency Region 7, explained to the Camanche City Council that the chemicals are Dense Non-Aqueous Phase Liquids that do not dissolve rapidly in water and noted the contamination is very deep in the source area. She said the DNAPLs have flowed down into bedrock fractures, making the contamination hard to deal with and efforts to dig the chemicals out could make the pollution more mobile.

Swyers said the draft final FFS contains three available options including taking no action, continuing the current pump and treat system, or performing exposure control including treating hot spots and extending the municipal water supply. The draft final FFS is available for review at the Clinton and Camanche public libraries.

At that time, Swyers said ACC/GCC is in the process of completing the final FFS and when the final FFS is complete, the EPA will decide if a modification of the current remedy is appropriate. To amend the remedy, the EPA has to go through a Record of Decision amendment process including submission of the final FFS report and preparing a proposed plan that describes the EPA’s preferred alternative and the reasons for it. Once the plan has been made available to the public for review and comment for a 30-day period, which Swyers said would happen this summer, the EPA will review the comments with the DNR and decide whether to change the remedy. Daniel Schiel, assistant regional counsel for the EPA, said the process would take approximately two to three months from the public comment period to the final remedy decision.

The EPA is proposing to reissue a Resource Conservation and Recovery Act hazardous waste permit to Equistar Chemicals. The permit will allow Equistar to continue operating a hazardous waste container storage unit, which was previously authorized in the permit in 1994. Equistar stores hazardous wastes in containers on a concrete pad with curbing for containment prior to shipping the wastes off-site. As part of the RCRA permitting process, the EPA has requested that Equistar prepare and submit plans to reduce and control release of hazardous wastes from the facility process sewer system.

The EPA has not scheduled a formal public hearing. One will be held if there is sufficient public interest or to clarify relevant issues. Request for a public hearing must be made in writing to Mary Grisolano, EPA Region 7 (ARTD/RCAP), 901 North Fifth St., Kansas City, KS 66101. The request must state the issues of concern. Written comments also may be sent to Grisolano by e-mailing grisolano.mary@epa.gov. Grisolano is available by phone at (913) 551-7657 or toll-free at 1-800-223-0425.

The EPA will make a final decision only after the public comment period ends and all comments are reviewed. Area residents may write Grisolano and join the mailing list, allowing them to receive any updated information directly throughout the permit renewal process and the life of the permit.

This Week's Circulars