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Monday session set on Chuckatuck cleanup

Citizens can find out more about changes to an Environmental Protection Agency cleanup plan for the Saunders Supply Company Superfund site in Chuckatuck at a public availability session this Monday.

The session will be held from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Monday at the Chuckatuck Library, 5881 Godwin Blvd., according to a public notice that ran in the Suffolk News-Herald on June 6.

EPA is conducting a five-year remedial review of the Saunders Supply Company Superfund site and is issuing an “Explanation of Significant Differences” to limit activities on two land parcels at the site, according to epa.gov.

An Explanation of Significant Differences provides additional information on changes to the remedy, such as changes in the cleanup cost estimate or remediation time frame, Sternberg EPA Press Officer David Sternberg wrote in an email.

According to epa.gov, the Saunders Supply Company Site is a roughly 7-acre former wood treating plant. From 1964 to 1984, a mixture of pentachlorophenol — or PCP — and fuel oil was used as the wood preservative. The chromated copper arsenate process was also added in 1974.

Wood treating operations ceased in 1991.

Part of the spent PCP/oil sludge was disposed of by being burned in an unlined pit or a conical burner on site. This resulted in the generation of dioxin compounds. Some of the PCP sludge was also sprayed around the site to control weeds, according to epa.gov.

The soil at the wood treating facility and part of the adjoining property was contaminated with arsenic, chromium, copper, PCP and dioxins.

Additionally, the groundwater in the shallow Columbia aquifer is impacted by heavy metals and PCP, according to Sternberg, but a treatment plant is in place to address this contamination. This aquifer’s groundwater flows toward Godwin Mill Pond.

City officials stressed in an email this week that the city’s water supply is safe.

City spokeswoman Diana Klink wrote that the drinking water produced at the city’s G. Robert House Jr. Water Treatment Plant in Chuckatuck and delivered to customers is “well within all EPA drinking water regulations and has been for more than three decades.”

The G. Robert House Jr. Water Treatment Plant and the City of Portsmouth Water Treatment Plant supply the potable water to the city’s water and sanitary system.

Albert Moor, director of Public Utilities, described Godwin Mill Pond as a small element of the city’s water sources, which also include surface water from the Lone Star Lakes, Norfolk raw water, City of Portsmouth potable water supply and deep groundwater wells in place in the Potomac Aquifer, at a depth of 500 to 600 feet.

EPA installed a groundwater treatment facility and also removed contaminated soils in 1998, then transferred operation and maintenance of the groundwater system to Virginia DEQ in 2009.

Sternberg wrote that EPA does not believe that contaminants are leaving the site, nor are any residents coming into contact with this water.

“(Godwin) Mill Pond has not been impacted; in fact, the plant was put in place to prevent that from happening,” he wrote. “(Godwin) Mill Pond is a potential source of drinking water for the community and will continue to be protected.”

The city’s Department of Public Utilities has continued to monitor and coordinate with the regulatory agencies concerning this matter for the past 35 years, according to Moor.

“Testing of the monitoring wells and Godwin Mill Pond is performed semi-annually, and reviewing our records for the past 15 years has provided no evidence of the Godwin Mill Pond source water exceeding EPA maximum contaminant levels for dissolved arsenic, chromium or copper,” Moor wrote.  “Further, Pentachlorophenol (PCP) has not been detected in any testing of the Godwin Mill Pond source.”

According to Sternberg, EPA documented the selected remedy in a Record of Decision on Sept. 30, 1991. Institutional controls were established in the record to prevent the use of the Columbia and Yorktown aquifers as a source of potable water.

Restrictions to limit the exposure to remaining soils that were not included in the original record will be added by the Explanation of Significant Differences, which will be discussed on Monday.

“(This Explanation) will add the restrictions on the above soils to the administrative record and will be an addition to the ROD,” Sternberg wrote.

EPA does not believe there is a current risk to residents or users of the site or adjacent areas, Sternberg wrote, and the Institutional Controls that EPA is putting in place for the soil are to “protect future exposure if the property use changes.”

“Specifically, EPA is concerned about dioxin in soil that has been detected in limited areas at very low levels,” he wrote.

A 2016 evaluation of dioxin in soil on properties adjacent to the Saunders Supply Company property identified two areas with limited dioxin contamination in soil that “exceeds EPA’s non-cancer Hazard Index for residential exposures,” but only for residential use.

“The areas being referenced do not have homes on them which may be a concern as to future use but are not currently being used for residential purposes,” he wrote.

Monday’s session will be in an open-house format, with EPA and Virginia Department of Environmental Quality staff available to provide information and handouts and to answer questions, Sternberg wrote.

Visit epa.gov/superfund/saunders for more information.