Officials from DuPont and T.L. Diamond emphasized their commitment to voluntarily remediate the Spelter waste pile at a public forum conducted by the Harrison County Planning Commission Thursday evening.
Sathya Yalvagi, a DuPont project manager, said the companies have completed an initial remedial project ordered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 1997. A plan for further remediation will be selected by September from three options: on-site recycling, removal and transport or capping in order to prevent rain from leaching hazardous materials from the pile into groundwater and the West Fork River.
Capping, the most likely option, could be completed by 2004, Yalvagi said.
"We removed the material from the riverbank and restrict public access to the tailings. We also installed drainage features to prevent erosion from the tailings," Yalvagi said. "The EPA was satisfied with our work."
While the current T.L. Diamond zinc dust manufacturing operation produces no additional tailings -- the term used for the waste pile -- the waste accumulated under several different owners from roughly 1918 to the late 1960s, said Roderic Moore of Potesta and Associates, Inc. a Charleston based environmental engineering and consulting firm.
Currently, the pile, which contains hazardous substances including arsenic and cadmium, comprises 2 million tons of waste from zinc smelting operations. The tailings cover 50 acres and the pile ranges in depth from six feet to about 96 feet, Yalvagi said.
Yalvagi added future operations will include gathering further information as well as trying to limit impact on groundwater by the approximately 15 million gallons of rain that falls on it yearly. Currently, there are no water wells within one mile of the site. Yalvagi said the project will also involve gathering information concerning the pile's effect upon the West Fork River.
"Before the initial remediation, we had a lot of material that sloughed off into the riverbank," Yalvagi said. "In terms of the river, we have very little data at this time but that's one of the areas we're working on."
A handful of Spelter residents attended the forum and the few questions they asked centered upon long term monitoring of the remediation and liability. Monitoring is included in the company's voluntary agreement with the state Division of Environmental Protection.
"It looks like they have three ways of doing it and they'll probably do it the cheapest way. That's in their best interest and I don't blame them," said Argyle Shingleton, who lived in Spelter for 20 years, worked at the plant and still owns property in the area. "I do have some concern about whether they'll have liability from here on out. Will they be able to walk away when they're done?"
Under the voluntary remediation agreement with the DEP, DuPont and T.L. Diamond will be protected from state enforcement measures relating to contamination prior to applying for the agreement last summer, said David Hight, project manager for the DEP. The companies will also be protected from "third party" lawsuits by groups concerning the remediation. However, they will not be immune from court actions by anyone directly injured by contamination.
"If someone was injured, they will not be prohibited from suing," Hight said.
A history of the Spelter site and details of the remediation project will be available for public viewing in the planning commission office.
County Commissioner Beth Taylor praised DuPont and T.L. Diamond officials for volunteering to remediate the site.
"The commission is proud of DuPont and T.L. Diamond for stepping up to the plate," Taylor said. "It's rare to find a company that will step forth and volunteer without Big Brother hammering them and making them do it."