Superfund was brought about by the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). The act was established in 1980. The Superfund program is one that takes specific areas of land that have been contaminated and cleans them up. These sites have contaminated groundwater that is in immediate danger of being a hazard to the humans around them. One example of this program is the Superfund site H & H Burn Pit in Montpelier, Virginia.
H & H Burn Pit is also known as H & H, Inc. and HH Burn Pit. This site is located 12 miles northwest of the state capital of Virginia, in Hanover County. As of June 2010, approximately 600 civilians lived within a mile of the contaminated site. The closest of these residences is approximately 1,000 feet from the site. Almost 2,500 people drink water from private wells within three miles. Also, there is a commonly used fishing site about three miles downstream from the site.
The groundwater at this site is contaminated with pesticides, lead, and volatile organic components (VOCs). VOCs, solvents, and degreasers contaminate the leachate from the burn pit. In addition, the sediments are contaminated with metal and PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls). Descriptions and risk factors of contaminates are contained within the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.
This site was initially contaminated by the Haskell Chemical Company. This occurred during the 16 year period between 1960 and 1976. They used this site to dispose of solvents containing printing inks and paint manufacturing wastes. Between 1976, when Haskell released the property, and 1989, when the EPA added the site to the National Priorities List, the owners of the site collected all of the contaminates in drums and dumped them in shallow, unlined pits and burned them.
In order to determine the nature and extent of the contamination, a Remedial Investigation and Feasibility Study (RI/FS) was performed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). A Record of Decision (ROD) was released in June 1995 by the EPA. This Record of Decision stated that the cleanup method for this site would be excavation and off-site disposal. Excavation and off-site disposal were completed in September 1998, followed by the completion of sediment excavation in spring 1999. An Explanation of Significant Differences (ESD) was completed in July 2007 in which the EPA established institutional controls originally requested for the ROD. The EPA and the site property manager are currently discussing the implementation of these controls.
High Vacuum Extractions (HVE) was used to speed up the process of decontaminating the soil and groundwater. In September 1999 the EPA gave an explanation of the approval for HVE in an ESD. Although the system was approved in September 1999, construction did not begin until spring 2000, with operation commencing in May 2000. Potentially responsible parties (PRPs) are currently reviewing the effectiveness of long-term use of the groundwater treatment system. This treatment system will be overseen by the EPA. The PRPs report was submitted to the EPA in February 2008. The remedy was deemed operational and functional by the EPA on May 15, 2001.
The first five year review for H & H Burn Pit was completed in June 2005. This review states that the National Priorities List status as final and that the site has been put into reuse as a timber lot. As of this first review the institutional controls had not yet been put in place which drew the need for a second five year review. After the completion of the first five year review the HVE system was shutdown between May 2006 and December 2006 with the EPA’s approval.
For the second five year review that was completed June 2010, the EPA assessed the risk of the vapor intrusion pathway. This was found to be a possible risk if a building were built on or near the groundwater before decontamination was complete. This review also showed that certain VOCs were still above the recommended levels in the groundwater. This review recommended continued assessment of the vapor intrusion pathway and also that a strategy be implemented to lower the remaining VOC levels in the groundwater.
H & H Burn Pit is just one of 106 Superfund sites in Virginia. 30 of these sites have been promoted to a “final” status. In addition, four of these have been deleted. Hopefully, those that are not currently finalized will be soon and we can then continue to delete these sites. It will surely help our ecosystem and environment to have all of these sites decontaminated and deleted.
Environmental Protection Agency. (2010). Mid-Atlantic Superfund: H & H Burn Pit. Retrieved December 30, 2010 from http://www.epa.gov/reg3hwmd/npl/VAD980539878.htm
Wright, R. & Boorse D. (2005). Environmental science: Toward a sustainable future. San Fransisco, CA: Pearson Education Inc.