By Lisa Sorg, NC Policy Watch
Facing vigorous opposition from environmental justice advocates, the EPA won’t send contaminated soil from the Kerr-McGee Superfund site in Navassa, in Brunswick County, to the Sampson County landfill, federal records show.
The new solution is not only cheaper, but averts the problem of moving the environmental problem from one community of color to another.
Originally the EPA had planned to truck soil from a portion of the Navassa site to one of three landfills in North Carolina, most likely Sampson County, just 68 miles away, Policy Watch reported in August.
Sampson County are already disproportionately burdened by numerous pollution sources industrialized hog and poultry farms, a biogas plant and the landfill itself.
From 1936 to 1974, Kerr-McGee and its predecessors operated a wood treatment plant on 244 acres of a former rice plantation in the historically Black community of Navassa. The company applied creosote to utility poles, railroad ties and other wood products to repel pests and prevent rot.
Decades of misuse poisoned the site with carcinogens, including dioxins and PAH, also known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.
Instead of shipping contaminated soil from Operable Unit 2 — also known as OU2 — offsite, it will be removed and stockpiled on a different portion, OU4. This alternative disposal method is listed in the Record of Decision, a legal document written by the EPA that will guide the clean up.
The soil removal is expected to happen within one to three months, according to the Record of Decision.
Sampling showed the soil at OU2 contains high levels of several contaminants. Those include benzopyrene, a known carcinogen, up to 600 times above residential standards and 33 times above those for industrial uses. A half-dozen other compounds exceeded residential standards, including naphthalene, a possible carcinogen that can damage the retina and cause anemia in people who are chronically exposed, according to the EPA. Some of the soil samples were composites, which represent the average contaminant concentrations.
While these levels exceed legal limits for the planned reuse, they are low enough that the material legally can be disposed in a lined landfill that has been approved by the EPA to accept Superfund waste.
After contaminated soil from OU2 is removed, the land will be redeveloped for housing.
OU4 was used for wood processing, and is more highly contaminated. The temporary storage area on that portion for the transferred soil still must meet federal waste standards. The EPA will regularly inspect the soil until a final cleanup plan is selected for OU4.
It would have cost $1.58 million to truck the contaminated soil offsite to Sampson County. The new plan will cost $1.45 million, saving about $120,000.
The EPA changed its disposal plan after meeting with community members and the environmental justice coordinator at the NC Department of Environmental Quality. Both DEQ and community members preferred that the soil be kept onsite.
There were opponents of the landfill plan at both the origin and destination of the waste: Veronica Carter, a member of the DEQ Environmental Justice and Equity Advisory Board, lives in Brunswick County; Sherri White-Williamson also sits on the EJ board. She is the environmental justice policy director of the NC Conservation Network, as well as a member of EJCAN, a nonprofit advocacy group based in Clinton that covers all of Sampson County.
The EPA will hold its quarterly community meeting about the cleanup Tuesday, Oct. 18, at 6 p.m., at the Navassa Community Center, 338 Main St.