PCB cleanup around plant set to begin
The work is just upstream from Aqua Pennsylvania's water intake pipe.
By HAROLD GWIN
VINDICATOR SHARON BUREAU
SHARON, Pa. -- Digging an estimated 4,100 cubic yards of contaminated sediment from the bottom of the Shenango River is expected to begin within the next several weeks.
The cleanup, targeting polychlorinated biphenyls left over from the days of manufacturing electrical transformers at the Westinghouse Electric Corp. plant on Sharpsville Avenue, is part of a larger federally mandated cleanup effort in and around the plant.
Westinghouse used PCBs, a cancer-causing insulating fluid, and trichlorobenzene in the manufacture of transformers at the plant before the federal government banned them as health hazards.
Cleanup of those chemicals in the plant, as well as some heavy metals such as zinc and manganese and other toxic substances such as arsenic and solvents, is nearing completion.
The federal Environmental Protection Agency issued a directive in February 2003 to Viacom Inc., the successor to Westinghouse, to also clean up some areas outside the plant.
That cost was estimated at about $6 million, and Victor Janosik, EPA Remedial Project Manager, said some of the work is done.
The EPA list included drilling additional monitoring wells around the plant to test for possible spread of contamination and cleaning an estimated 20 cubic yards of contaminated debris and sediments from the Wishart Court storm sewer line just north of Silver Street.
Janosik said those two items have been completed.
Digging up contaminated sediment from a portion of the river bottom and an additional estimated 300 cubic yards of contaminated soil in the bank along the eastern edge of the Shenango River downstream from Clark Street remain to be done, he said.
Viacom has hired URS Corp. to handle that work and is moving construction and digging equipment into position along the west side of the river now, Janosik said.
The targeted site is between the Clark Street bridge and the low-head dam at Aqua Pennsylvania's Shenango Valley Division plant.
Protecting water supply
That's right upstream from the water company's intake pipe for its water treatment plant that provides drinking water to more than 80,000 people in Mercer, Lawrence and Trumbull counties.
"We're going to take every step humanly possible to protect the water supply," Janosik said.
For example, various types of shields will be used to protect the intake pipe. There will be direct sediment cleanup to control the loss of any contaminated material back into the river, he said.
Further, discharged water coming from the cleanup area will be treated and put back into the river below the intake pipe, he said.
URS is building a dock on the river for barges that will hold the contaminated sediment. The actual work area will be segregated from the river by metal sheet pilings that will be sunk into the river bottom to prevent material from escaping, Janosik said.
"We're prepared as we can be," said Walter Pishkur, president of the Shenango Valley Division of Aqua Pennsylvania.
The water company gave Viacom access to the river at its plant and also access to laboratory space within the plant.
The contractor and the water company will be able to monitor the water quality daily hour by hour, Pishkur said, noting the project is expected to take up to three months.
The water company knows there are some contaminants in the river bottom but has never found any PCBs in raw or treated water tests, he said.
Aqua Pennsylvania also has set up a plan to add granular activated charcoal, the EPA-recommended treatment to remove PCBs from water, at the intake point, if it becomes necessary, Pishkur said.
Janosik said that when the contaminated river bottom and river bank soils are removed, that will complete the exterior cleanup work around the plant.
Once the interior cleanup work being done inside the plant is finished, the EPA can consider removing the plant from its Superfund hazardous site list, he said.
Westinghouse ceased operations at the plant two decades ago and has since sold it off in pieces. The northern end of the plant now houses an AK Steel pipe warehouse operation, and Winner Steel Services occupies the southern end.