EPA plans cleanup of tar plant

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 29, 2007

It has been years since the tar plant on the old Ironton Coke/ Allied Chemical site went out of existence.

Now, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has a plan to clean up the old plant site and is soliciting public comments about it through Aug. 14.

Under the proposed plan, some contaminated soil would be covered with an engineering landfill cap and some polluted sediment near the Ohio River would be dug out and disposed of elsewhere.

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Polluted sediment that is allowed to remain along the river at the old tar plant site would be covered with a mixture of sand, gravel and similar material. There may also be environmental controls in the future, such as posted signs and zoning restrictions.

The work would be finished within the year, EPA project manager Brenda Jones said.

“After the comment period there will be a final decision made and a record of decision issued hopefully in September,” Jones said. “Once we have a final decision the EPA will negotiate with Honeywell on the cleanup.”

That means Honeywell will get to pick up the $8.5-$10.2 million tab for the cleanup.

The tar plant closed in 2000. What kind of contaminants might be down there?

“Polyaromatic hydrocarbons,” Jones said. “We call them PAHs and these are residuals from tar and coke and are the primary contaminants and they can cause cancer and neurological damage.”

Other possible contaminants include arsenic, benzene, tolulene and xylene. Jones said she did not know what quantity of contaminants might exist, but that the levels were higher than deemed safe, prompting the cleanup.

Groundwater at the site is already being cleaned and monitored under a 1990 action plan. Air at the site is safe to breath but environmental experts said any vapors rising into the air from the ground could cause a health risk and prolonged exposure to the soil could also cause a health risk.

The old Ironton Coke/Allied Chemical site was added to the Superfund National Priorities list in 1983. The proposed cleanup plan addresses just one of three distinct cleanup areas that make up the entire Allied Chemical and Ironton Coke site. Other areas of the site were cleaned up in the mid 1990s.

If there is enough interest, the EPA may have a public hearing on the cleanup plan so residents can have an additional opportunity to discuss the matter. For more information contact Community Involvement Coordinator Bri Bill at 800-621-8431, ext. 36646 during business hours or by email at bill.briana@epa.gov. To request a public hearing, contact Bill by July 27.