Loudoun County and EPA differ over Hidden Lane clean-up


Supervisors in Loudoun County have asked the Environmental Protection Agency to reconsider its plans for cleaning up the pollution at the Hidden Lane landfill after an independent consultant reported that they might instead produce an even more toxic substance.

The Hidden Lane site, a former landfill, has been on the EPA’s Superfund list of most contaminated sites since 2008, after discovering there was a degreaser leaking into well water from nearby homes. The landfill was closed by court order in 1983 after a legal battle with the county, which had never issued a permit for the landfill.

The neighboring houses have been equipped with water filtration. In 2017, the estate of the previous owners reached an agreement with state and federal authorities to help fund the cleanup by selling the land, and in 2019, the EPA announced it would pay to connect 124 homes in the neighborhood of Broad Run Farms at Public Water, at work it’s underway. A developer has also proposed new housing around the site.

The EPA is close to approving a plan to clean up the source of the contamination, with other plans still underway to clean up the site-wide groundwater contamination. Part of that plan is to add other chemicals to encourage the naturally occurring microorganisms at the site to break down and passively process contaminants – a plan that Virginia Tech professor and head of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the university, Mark Widdowson, wrote has a poor record of success.

In fact, he wrote, the plan could release vinyl chloride dissolved in groundwater, a more toxic and potent substance than the degreaser targeted by the cleanup, trichlorethylene.

“It is not scientifically defensible to expect that a significant reduction in the mass of TCE in bedrock can be achieved by relying on source area microorganisms and / or chemical reducers “Widdowson wrote in a report to the county government. “The use of bioremediation and in situ chemical reduction in bedrock aquifers does not have a good track record of success at other Superfund sites. “

Instead, he recommended other options under consideration that would involve injecting strong chemicals into the site to break down the contaminants, or that would heat the contaminants to boiling temperatures, trap the vapors, and wash away the contaminants. substances elsewhere for safe disposal.

“It’s going to produce more toxic byproducts than what we have out there now, and it just sounds silly,” supervisor Michael R. Turner (D-Ashburn) said.

Widdowson also found that the EPA’s plans in some parts were ill-defined, with different clean-up thresholds in a feasibility study and the proposed plan, and not covering all contaminants at the site.

County preferred options are more expensive; preliminary estimates put the EPA’s preferred option at $ 5.9 million, while the county’s preferred options are estimated at $ 11.1 million for chemical injections and $ 27 million for contaminant removal. The federal government will fund the cleanup.

County supervisors have asked the EPA to consider these options at their June 1 meeting. While the EPA is obligated to solicit comments from the community, it is not obligated to heed their recommendations.

Supervisors voted 7-0-2 with President Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) and Supervisor Caleb A. Kershner (R-Catoctin) absent.

“I have already expressed my gratitude to the staff, but I am also very grateful that the county administrator had the foresight to hire an independent consultant such as Mr Widdowson to advise us and to sort of verify the advice we have. receive, or the suggestions we receive from the EPA, “said District Supervisor Juli E. Briskman (D-Algonkian).” I know the community appreciates that too. “

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