The City of Oregon's fear that contamination from the Envirosafe hazardous waste landfill is leaking into city land subsided somewhat last week.
Preliminary results from tests of groundwater at three wells installed next to the landfill along York Street came back virtually clean. Groundwater taken from a fourth location on Millard Avenue was found to contain four chemicals at levels slightly above the permitted amount for drinking water.
"As long as you're not putting your hands in it and drinking it, its highly unlikely to be a problem," said Brian O'Mara, principal-in-charge at the engineering firm Arcadis, which is conducting the testing for the city. "Based on what we found, we don't see a major problem outside of the landfill."
The chemicals found in the groundwater under Millard Avenue are benzoanthracene, benzopyrene, benzofluoranthene, and indenopyrene. These are chemicals that are present inside the landfill, Mr. O'Mara said.
Because the chemicals are semivolatile organic compounds, they are not readily soluble in water and don't tend to travel very far. However, they could be toxic for plants and animals if they get into Otter Creek, Mr. O'Mara continued.
The compounds are removed in the water treatment process and therefore could not get into local water supplies, he said.
Also, the presence of the chemicals in the samples exceeded potable water limits by a very small amount, Mr. O'Mara said.
Oregon Mayor Marge Brown said the results were much better than she had expected, and she was relieved.
"I feel much better about it," she said.
Nevertheless, Mayor Brown said she wants Envirosafe to clean up the contamination that was found at the fourth testing site. She also is insisting on a meeting with Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland and Environmental Protection Agency officials to discuss other problems with the landfill, she said.
EPA spokesman Dina Pierce said the agency had received a copy of the preliminary test results and was not surprised by the findings. She also pointed out that the results are estimates.
"We know contamination is getting off-site, we've known that for years," Ms. Pierce said. "Based on this document there's nothing that raises concerns to us beyond what we are already aware of."
She said contamination from the landfill comes from old pits at the site that were built before modern regulations required protective lining. Envirosafe completed a study of this problem in February and will have to develop a corrective plan of action, she said.
"If they can take some action on the site that can eliminate the source [of contamination], that should take care of the problem," Ms. Pierce said. "One of the key things to remember is that nobody is drinking that groundwater. That lessens the immediate concern."
Tom Hayes, an attorney for Oregon, said the clean test results from the groundwater under York Street are good news for the city's water lines, which run along that road. He said continued testing is needed to make sure contaminants do not reach the lines.
"The water lines needed to be monitored, and the city will use these wells to make sure that the contaminants that are across the fence don't get to the water line," Mr. Hayes said.
Arcadis will carry out a second round of testing to get more definite data, Mr. O'Mara said.
Citizen activist Joanne Schiavone, who has followed the Envirosafe issue for years, said she thinks additional testing will reveal more problems.
"This is only the beginning. I think once they go down deeper they're going to find more," Ms. Schiavone said. "Anything coming off of that site is wrong. Make them clean it up."