Answers and solutions to the issue of PCBs (Polychlorinated Biphenyl(s) on the Twelve Mile River are likely several years away, an EPA official told the Pickens County Council Monday night.
“We have a plume on a very challenging sub-surface that is going to require us to keep at it for a number of years,” said Craig Zeller, an official with the EPA. “I’d say another decade. “We couldn’t really have dreamed of a more challenging sub-surface environment to clean up (this problem). “That’s the frustrating thing about this.”
Zeller appeared before the County Council Monday to give an update and answer questions from concerned council members. He said the EPA recently collected the most recent samples from the Twelve Mile River.
Zeller said 258 total sediment samples were collected to investigate PCB volume. The EPA also took a collection of sufficient sediment samples from the creek channel to evaluate potential effect on kayakers or people who may be using the river for recreation. Ten samples were planned, but teams took 14 total samples to be thorough. The EPA also planned a total of 8 human health samples, but there was not sufficient area on site so they ended up with six samples.
“All the data is at the lab,” said Zeller. “We expect to start getting the data back on the first of June. It probably won’t be validated, but that validation will go on through June and we will start with our report around the end of June or the first of July. It’s pretty much on schedule.”
The tests will give an updated look as to how many PCBs remain in the Twelve Mile River. Zeller says the sampling went as expected.
“The sampling went well,” said Zeller. “We want to collect this data to where people think it’s useful. We don’t want to come back in here in August and (have people dissatisfied). We’re looking to avoid that pitfall.”
With recent concern that dangerous levels of PCB might still remain in the body of water, Zeller maintains that the problem has fallen since testing organic materials in 1997.
“The Plume has shrunk,” said Zeller. “The plume size or the area extent of the PCBs and VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) has shrunk by about half. We still have some wells out there that have fairly high levels of VOC. At plant sites, it’s mostly VOCs.”
Zeller says testing the water has been more difficult than normal.
“Unfortunately, about 80 percent of these Superfund sites in the country have a ground water problem,” said Zeller. “Since 1997 we have recovered and treated billions of gallons of water, but we’ve only removed less than 100 pounds of PCBs. It’s an accomplishment, sure, but it’s also a limitation. That rate will probably keep going for a number of years.”