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Published: Monday, 6/29/2009

Cleanup plan ready for public to discuss

BY TOM HENRY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

FAYETTE, Ohio - It's been a long time coming: Fifteen years and counting.

But the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency said contractors are finally about to clean up the Fayette Tubular Products site at Gamber and Railroad streets in Fayette, the northwesternmost village in Fulton County.

The agency began investigating it in 1994.

The cleanup plan is now available for viewing at Normal Memorial Library in Fayette, as well as the Ohio EPA's northwest district office in Bowling Green where an appointment is requested.

The plan calls for a containment of the waste and the eventual biodegradation of it over time, the agency said.

The cost for the work was not immediately known.

The project will be discussed at a public meeting at 6:30 p.m. on July 14 in the Fayette Opera House.

Written comments will be accepted through July 21.

Once the village's largest employer, Fayette Tubular made metal tubing for air-conditioning units from 1962 to 1997.

At one time, it had 600 employees.

But the abandoned industrial site put residents on edge years ago when it was blamed for contaminating groundwater with trichloroethylene and its equally dangerous by-product vinyl chloride. Both are potent cancer-causing pollutants.

The situation was so bad that Hans Schmalzried, then Fulton County health commissioner, stunned residents in 2000 by saying he wouldn't let his family members drink Fayette's water if they had lived there.

At the time, Mr. Schmalzried called the site the "biggest public water threat in Fulton County."

The water has since been deemed safe.

The village bypassed the problem by switching to two new wells several years ago.

But the state EPA agreed the site still needs to be addressed.

In a follow-up interview two years ago, Mr. Schmalzried - now an associate professor at Bowling Green State University - said he didn't regret what he said back then, even though he caught some flak for it.

The federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, a sister agency of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in a report several years ago that the "possibility of vapor intrusion into the homes still exists" until the site is cleaned up because of "a contaminant plume within a few yards of the homes' foundations."

In 2007, the Gorham Fayette Local School District received a $3.9 million settlement from D.H. Holdings Corp. and Hutchinson FTS Inc., two companies responsible for the industrial site.

The settlement was made after trichloroethylene vapors were detected in a fifth-grade classroom of a former building that housed all grades in the district. A new, $18 million school opened elsewhere in the village last fall.

The Ohio EPA's cleanup plan calls for keeping the Fayette Tubular site in its industrial state and to prohibit digging, trenching, or other "subsurface activities within the impacted areas."

The agency said it will require engineering modifications to prevent the spread of chemical vapors from soil and nearby groundwater.

Fayette Mayor Craig Rower and Amy Metz, village administrator, could not be reached for comment.

Contact Tom Henry at:

thenry@theblade.com

or 419-724-6079.



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