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U.S. EPA: $1 million Texas Township hazardous drum cleanup nearly complete

Release Date: 12/22/2008
Contact Information: (EPA) Mick Hans, 312-353-5050, hans.mick@epa.gov (MDEQ) Bob McCann, 517-241-7397

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
No. 08-OPA183

(Chicago, Ill. - Dec. 22, 2008) U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 5 has nearly completed its $1 million Superfund cleanup of hazardous chemical drums on West O Avenue in Texas Township, Mich., near Kalamazoo. Some materials remain at the site staged for disposal. Security will be maintained at the property until the materials are collected and sent to EPA-approved disposal facilities.

Michigan Department of Environmental Quality became aware of the site following a pole-barn fire at the semi-rural residential property in late August. MDEQ initiated an investigation and requested EPA assistance to secure and stabilize site conditions and to follow up with a cleanup. EPA began the cleanup Aug. 31. A total of 491 55-gallon drums - many of them damaged in the fire - were found in the barn and two other locations on the property.

Between mid-September and early December, a team of chemists sorted the contents of the drums for off-site disposal. Each of the drums held numerous smaller containers haphazardly filled with chemicals typically found in commercial, medical, academic and research laboratories. Over the course of the project, the chemists systematically opened and evaluated 40,000 to 50,000 individual containers.

Hundreds of different chemicals were found in the containers. Many of these are flammable or explosive when stored in a manner in which powders and liquids from broken or leaking containers come in contact with each other. A few drums held containers with biological material such as laboratory animals. A total of 25 drums contained materials with low-level radioactivity. The effort also included tear-down of the damaged barn and removal of its poured-cement foundation, along with excavation of soil from the three affected areas.

Much of the hazardous material has already been repacked and sent for disposal. Over five separate shipments, 295 drums and 69 cubic containers (ranging in size from one cubic foot to one cubic yard) were sent to the EQ disposal facility in Belleville, Mich. A rolloff box of mercury-contaminated material was sent to Mercury Waste Solutions in Union Grove, Wis. Five rolloff boxes of non-hazardous debris, including crushed drums and packing material, have been sent to local landfills.

The remaining material includes five rolloff boxes of hazardous debris, three rolloffs of non-hazardous debris, 50 cubic yards of contaminated soil, 30 cubic yards of non-hazardous soil, 13 drums of low-level radiation waste and two drums of bio-hazard waste. Collection and disposal arrangements for the remaining material are expected to be finalized during the first quarter of 2009.

With the containment, analysis, repacking and staging of the hazardous material now complete, MDEQ will evaluate the soil and ground water conditions in the area and, if warranted, establish a sampling program.

The cleanup was managed by EPA's Grosse Ile, Mich.-based Superfund emergency response team in consultation with MDEQ. Cost recovery efforts and a criminal investigation into the source(s) of the material by both EPA and MDEQ are under way and will continue once the cleanup is complete.

A public meeting attended by about 150 people was held in November. EPA and MDEQ plan to hold a meeting in February 2009 to update residents and answer questions about the effort.

Web page about the Texas Township Drum Site: http://www.epa.gov/region5/sites/texas/

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