July 12, 2024

On Monday, April 21, the Wittenberg geography department hosted a paneled community forum on the Tremont City Barrel Fill, a hazardous and industrial waste site. Between 1976 and 1979, 51,500 barrels were buried in this site in unlined cells. Waste was also dumped without barrels, so there is concern about soil contamination.
The forum was held to facilitate public discussion between representatives from the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) and People for Safe Water, an organization concerned about the proximity of the barrels to Clark County water supplies on both leakage flow (if waste leaks from the barrel site, will it end up in the wells?) and groundwater contamination (if waste leaks and is absorbed into the soil, will it reach water running under the barrel site?) fronts.
Discussion was driven by both pre-submitted questions and questions from the audience, which consisted of over 100 attendees from the Springfield and Wittenberg community.
The panel was moderated by Mayor Warren Copeland, PhD, and comprised of Joan Tanaka (Superfund Branch Chief, US EPA Region 5), Jena Sleboda (US EPA Regional Project Manager for the Tremont City Barrel Fill), Charles Patterson (Health Commissioner, Clark County Combined Health District), Marilyn Welker (President, People for Safe Water), and Peter Townsend (Hydrogeological Consultant, People for Safe Water).
Welker called for a removal of all of the waste from the site to protect Springfield’s “abundant, pure, and invisible” underground water supply, a plan she said the US EPA originally proposed in 2010 before switching to the current plan, Alternative 9a, which costs less and which they claim will keep the water supply just as safe, a view her organization challenges. She also thanked the EPA for their participation in the forum: “they have done some things right.”
Tanaka repeatedly defended Alternative 9a, claiming that it satisfied a balance of cost effectiveness and protecting the Clark County community. This plan would cost $28 million, as opposed to the $56 million cost of the 2010 total-removal plan.
Dorri Jones, ’14, commented that if the panel had “asked (the community members present) if they would give five percent of their income to pay for it, they’d probably say no.” People for Safe Water’s web site argues that “the cleanup costs for this site are the responsibility of viable corporations,” referring to the companies who originally deposited the waste over 35 years ago.
Copeland clarified early on in the evening that “there is no concern about the current water supply” for Springfield residents today. Patterson later reiterated that he was “not concerned with what happens today, but concerned with what happens in the future.”

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