OEPA recommends the Mahoningside soil removal but can't order it, a spokeswoman said.
By DENISE DICK
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
WARREN -- City officials still aim for the end of summer to early fall to complete cleanup of the former Mahoningside Power Plant site, but plans may have hit an environmental snag.
David J. Robison, director of the city's engineering, planning and building department, said soil at the site was dug up and tested and found to not have PCB contamination.
He said the city has documentation showing there wasn't contamination beyond acceptable levels when the work was done.
The U.S. EPA now says tests have shown contamination. The city maintains the newfound contamination was caused by the agencies doing their work.
"We told them we'll test the site and, if the contamination shows up only on that side, you pay," Robison said. "If it's the whole pile, we'll pay."
Mayor Hank Angelo said testing is being done to determine the contamination level. It hasn't been determined who will pay the anticipated $23,000 bill.
Ed McCabe of McCabe Engineering of Richfield, the company contracted by the city for cleanup, said they are awaiting results.
The samples that have come back show one pile is clean and the contamination detected on another is within the 0-to-4-foot depth, McCabe said. The remainder of the samples was expected back late today.
Once all of the samples come back, discussions among the two agencies and the city will begin to determine the best course of action.
The city also previously received approval to encapsulate asbestos found at the site in the basement, Robison said.
Angelo said the OEPA now wants the asbestos-contaminated soil removed from the Summit Street site -- a more costly remedy.
"We strongly recommended that the city take the soil on the property and dispose of it at a proper disposal site," said Kara Allison, an OEPA spokeswoman. "We prefer that they remove it, but we can't order them to do it."
OEPA also recommends the city repair the riparian zone, or area along the Mahoning River bank.
Removal of the buildings at the site left a 30-foot hole where the building's basement was that needs to be filled. The basement floor and 3-foot walls remain.
Robison said the city still plans to fill the basement area with soil containing asbestos and encapsulate it underground to prevent further contamination.
If the city chooses to encapsulate the asbestos-contaminated soil, the site would always be an asbestos landfill, Allison said. It would require continuous oversight.
It would have to be kept above the water level to prevent the material from getting wet and a liner would have to be installed just like at any landfill, she said.
Ultimately, the decision must be made by the city and McCabe Engineering, Allison said.
"They have to show that all of the hazards have been removed or contained to get a release of liability from the Ohio EPA through its voluntary action program," she said.
According to Robison, drains would be sealed and the thickness of the walls would prevent water from getting in.
"Some people think I'm overly optimistic, but I'm still looking at the end of October and that's with grass growing on it," Robison said.
McCabe agrees with that timetable. "There's not a lot of work to do out there," McCabe said. "That's the sad part."
The city began cleanup in March 1999 when two smokestacks were razed. The property, which sits on a five-acre site along the Mahoning River, was vacant for many years.
The EPA took over management when the discovery of contaminants complicated cleanup efforts.
PCBs, which are suspected cancer-causing agents, have been reduced to a level acceptable to the EPA, officials have said.