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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I made it to the EPA meeting tonight. Most of the same people but a very different setting than the last one. This was a formal presentation by Luis Flores of the EPA followed by a Q&A session. In a nutshell, he reviewed the key findings of the studies that have been done and presented the alternatives for remediation of the downstream waters, along with the EPA's recommendation.

Here's an overview:

The Site is divided into 2 "Operable Units" - Operable Unit 2 is the actual Ward site that was discussed last time and is undergoing treatment now. Operable Unit 1 is the downstream areas. Today's presentation focused on Operable Unit 1.

The data had not changed since the last meeting. Same fish and soil contamination measurements.
  • Contaminated soil samples begin at the Ward site near 70 and 540, follow some unnamed feeder creeks to Little Brier Creek along 540, into Brier Creek reservoir (near the Airport), into Brier Creek, into Lake Crabtree. No soil contamination has been found beyond Lake Crabtree.
  • Contaminated fish have been found as far as the Neuse - some 30 miles downstream. The fish contamination levels are high enough at Brier Creek Reservoir to warrant a no consumption advisory (do not eat), but Brier Creek reservoir is largely unfished/inaccessible. Fish contamination in Lake Crabtree and Crabtree Creek are high enough to warrant a Do Not Eat warning for carp and catfish, and a one meal per month for other fish. Crabtree Creek to the Neuse warrants a one meal per month warning for all species. Signs have been posted and Lake Crabtree County Park is going above the advisory by enforcing a catch and release policy on park grounds.
The remediation alternatives, their cost estimates and the EPA recommendation were the new news. The 5 alternatives included:
  • Alternative 1 - no action (required by EPA to include in every analysis). Would include 5 year reviews of the remedy for a period of 30 years. Cost $336K
  • Alternative 2 - Institutional Controls. This includes education and outreach, posting of signs and the 5 year reviews. Cost $476K
  • Alternative 3 - Monitored Natural Recovery + Institutional Controls. All of the above plus annual monitoring of sediment and aquatic biota (fish, shellfish). Basically letting nature take its course, with frequent monitoring of the progress. Modeling indicates that it may take more than 30 years before the PCB levels in the fish would drop to acceptable levels for consumption under this plan, based on the levels present in the watershed. Cost $2.2M
  • Alternative 4 - Excavation and off-site disposal of contaminated sediment in the upper reaches of the unnamed feeder creek and Lower Brier Creek, plus Monitored Natural Recovery for Brier Creek Reservoir, Lake Crabtree and Lower Crabtree Creek. (In re-reading the document, the terminology changed here to add "Lower" to Brier Creek and Crabtree Creek. I'm going to have to go back and review or ask the EPA folks for clarification). Basically they would re-sample the upper creek areas and wherever they come up with a 1ppm measure of PCBs they would excavate. By reducing all of the source areas to below 1ppm, their models indicate that that the fish in Brier Creek Reservoir would be edible in 14 years and Lake Crabtree in 9 years. Cost $4.9M
  • Alternative 5 - Excavation/Dredging of everything through Lake Crabtree. Cost $540M. (don't need to say much about this one - nobody stood up with a half-billion dollar check...). This option yielded about a year faster to get to edible fish after the work was completed, but by the time they got done planning it would up being years longer than #4.
The EPA is recommending Alternative 4.

This is the beginning of the open comment period which runs through October 4 (I believe - the docs say September 4, but they mentioned in the meeting that the comment window had been extended).

If anybody wants a copy of the report they can find it (and everything else related to the Ward site) at the North Regional Library on Harps Mill Rd. in Raleigh. Or you can contact either of these folks to receive one by mail:
Luis E. Flores, Remedial Project Manager
(404)562-8807, [email protected]
or
Angela Miller, Community Involvement Coordinator
(404)562-8561, [email protected]

(I'll post some more in a reply)
 

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Thanks for keeping us up to date Jeff. It sounds like they are very serious about doing the right thing.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Notes:
  • The estimates for the PCBs in the fish reaching safe levels are from models based on limited, site-specific data which compared fish fillet contamination level drops to corresponding sediment contamination drops. It sounded like we'd make a great 2nd data point for the model.
  • The Neuse River Foundation had received an EPA grant to hire a professional Technical Adviser (Peter Deffer) to review the scientific and regulatory materials and help with outbound communications. He was at this meeting and asked several questions.
  • Dr. Luanne Williams of the NC Dept of Public Health spoke for a bit about the warnings and signs that the state and county have worked on. Her dept has been doing more sampling related to this and other potential PCB contamination sites that feed the Neuse. Apparently Ward had other transformer storage/repair/dumping sites in SE Raleigh that could also be potential sources of PCBs. She's expecting some results in a few weeks and will get it to her "mailing list"... I'm going to try to get on her list.
  • Weston Solutions conducted (some/all of) the ecological risk assessment for the EPA. Their guy (Charles Young) was excellent.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Personal Observations:

The good:
  • The EPA considers anything under 1part per million of PCBs safe for habitation/daily contact, and we won't be left with anything above that threshold in the system if their recommendation is carried out.
  • I continue to have faith in the folks conducting the studies and making the recommendations. The EPA folks are good people and the private contractors involved in both the study and cleanup sides seem to know their stuff.
The not so good:
  • Still none of this information is available on the Web. That's disappointing.
  • Lake Crabtree Park has more or less quashed all fishing. That's understandable from a health and human safety perspective, but disappointing.
  • The only winners are the environmental contractors. That's disappointing.
  • There are other Ward sites which may be contaminated. That's disappointing.
My verdict:
  • I'm no "tree hugger" or "environmentalist whack-o", but this is a raw deal for the planet, the community, the park, the taxpayers, and maybe even the companies that are now footing the bill.
  • I've got no interest in eating the fish from any of the affected waters, even if they weren't affected, but its just not sitting well with me.
  • I guess the thrill of discovery was all used up in the first meeting, and we're left with just the cleanup now.
  • It appears that the only thing they want from the "fishing community" is help passing on the word to follow the advisories, and more generally to help discourage fishing at Lake Crabtree. I doubt they would view a CPR (catch, photo, release) fishing event as a positive thing - it would only serve to encourage other people to fish, which would encourage some percentage of the sustenance fishermen to fish and keep fish, despite the warnings and regulations.
  • I found the whole thing pretty depressing.
 

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I also made it to the EPA public meeting on 8/14/07. Your summary of the meeting and related information are pretty much accurate. There was also a recent N&O article a few days ago that reported on the meeting and summarized the cleanup plan. One item of interest to our fellow anglers is that Wake County has now designed Lake Crabtree as a "catch and release" only fishery to further prevent people from consuming the fish. This was confirmed by the Lake Crabtree County Park manager at the public meeting.

As an environmental consultant myself, I do have to take exception to your statement that the only people who are winning in this situation are the environmental contractors. That's sort of like saying that doctors and hospitals are the only ones who benefit after they help to cure you from cancer or some other disease.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
As an environmental consultant myself, I do have to take exception to your statement that the only people who are winning in this situation are the environmental contractors. That's sort of like saying that doctors and hospitals are the only ones who benefit after they help to cure you from cancer or some other disease.
Fair enough flyakker - you're much more educated in the field than I am and have a much better grasp of the magnitude of the problem and range of potential outcomes. I don't have any of that to help hone my perspective, so I'll take "pretty much accurate" and one exception to my list of opinions as high marks!

I should make it clear up that I don't begrudge the environmental contractors involved one bit of respect or one penny. I've learned as much from them as from any of the governmental agencies and have been nothing but impressed with their knowledge and skill.

I'm still discouraged by having such an easily-accessible fishery more or less off-limits through the consumption warnings and park policies for at least 10 more years (if the models are correct and assuming the work happens as recommended). I'm still discouraged by the stigma of polluted fisheries in our community. And I'm still discouraged that contaminated fish are migrating into the Neuse. Even if its only a little bit of contamination, it can't be better than none at all. In 10 years if we arrive at a conclusion where my grandkids gain a natural resource that my kids don't have, I'll probably have a better appreciation for your analogy.

Anyway, I appreciate the feedback. Wish we had run into each other at the meeting to compare notes. Maybe next time or maybe on some other topic, perhaps fishing?
 
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