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Federal EPA to Use $22M in Funding to Cleanup Superfund Site in Loudoun County, Va.

Tue May 21, 2024 - Northeast Edition #12
Virginia Mercury


Work is now under way to clean up a chemical present in an old landfill in northern Virginia that can lead to a central nervous system condition, for which the area's congressional representative has been diagnosed, according to the Virginia Mercury, an independent online news organization covering state government and policy.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on May 14 celebrated $22 million in funding from the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law that will go toward cleaning up the Hidden Lane Landfill in Loudoun County, northwest of Washington, D.C.

The landfill is known as a Superfund site, a designation identifying heavily polluted and hazardous areas. It was added to the federal program's National Priorities List in 2008.

According to the EPA, the 25-acre site was a privately owned landfill north of Virginia Highway 7 between the Broad Run Farms and Countryside communities adjacent to a floodplain of the Potomac River.

The landfill opened in 1971 to accept solid and construction waste, discarded appliances and other materials before the county closed it down in 1984 in the wake of a court order, the Virginia Mercury reported.

About five years after the closure, the degreasing solvent trichloroethylene, or TCE, was found in the wells that supplied water to homes in the Broad Run Farms subdivision.

"[TCE] is an acute and long-term hazard," said Adam Ortiz, the EPA's mid-Atlantic regional administrator. "In a site like this, with the concentrations that we found, it set off alarm bells. This is real stuff, particularly for pregnant mothers."

The dangerous chemical can be ingested through the air or drinking water, the Virginia Mercury reported.

Related health issues include heart problems, numbness and Parkinson's disease, the latter of which shares similarities with progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP), a rare neurological disorder that U.S. Rep. Jennifer Wexton, D-Loudoun, was diagnosed to have contracted.

Wexton revealed her illness last fall and noted that is the reason she will not seek reelection this fall. Initially, though, her doctors believed she had Parkinson's, she said.

Wexton spoke on the U.S. House floor using a text-to-speech assistive technology because of her condition — the first time a member of Congress has used it to deliver a floor speech — and did so again at the May 14 announcement.

"I've seen firsthand how Parkinson's and related diseases like my PSP can be devastating for individuals, their families and the communities around them," she explained.

Hidden Lane Cleanup a Two-Part Effort

The first step in the Loudoun County Landfill cleanup is excavating the contaminated dirt, a $5 million task that began in February and is expected to be completed this summer, Virginia Mercury said.

Following that, design and construction of a new $17 million waterline, the main "deliverable" of the project, will be installed over about five years, with help from the Baltimore District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to connect about 110 homes in the area to a fresh source of water.

"We were relieved to be able to have this round of infrastructure funding to accelerate the cleanup," Ortiz said, adding that the water line is crucial "to make sure that the community can drink from the faucet without fear."

Since the detection of the TCE, and while the work is being completed, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), assisted by the EPA, has been providing homeowners in the area with treatment systems, which will be replaced by the new permanent pipeline.

"We are pleased that decades of work in partnership with EPA to clean up the Hidden Lane Landfill has led to remediation of contamination and construction of a public water line to improve the environment and benefit the Broad Run and Countryside communities," Irina Calos, a spokesperson of the Virginia DEQ, said in a statement.

Once its cleanup is complete, the location will then be eligible for reuse — possibly for solar energy generation or a ball field, said Charlie Root, an EPA remedial project manager.

Although their development has boomed in the county, a new data center would likely not be eligible for the site, he cautioned, because of the way the landfill was closed with "just a soil cover."

EPA Making Progress On Va.'s Superfund Sites

Virginia has 36 Superfund sites on the EPA's website, including a former battery manufacturing property in Chesterfield that was removed in August 2022, and an ordnance depot in Suffolk that has been converted into a working logistic center.

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides the momentum behind getting about 85 percent of Superfund site cleanup projects completed, by way of $3.5 billion in funding, Ortiz said.

"It has just allowed us to move faster than we had before," Root added.

In addition to the Hidden Lane Landfill in Loudoun County, another Virginia project to be funded by the federal law is a site in Montross, where a business currently sits. A logistical issue at that site is keeping the company running during cleanup, Root said.

Because of that, using in-situ thermal technology to burn up about 99 percent of the toxic chemicals in the ground under a building is necessary because of an inability to excavate the dirt and haul it to a certified landfill processor — like the Loudoun County project — more inexpensively.

"At the Hidden Lane Landfill site, it is a deep excavation, about 35 feet," Root explained. "But we were able to do that safely with the setback, [allowing us to] slope it so that we could get that work done safely without endangering the workers."

For the thermal treatment, he said a lot of electricity is required.

"We have to build infrastructure to bring in electricity. It's a more intense, more involved technology," Root noted.

However it is accomplished, though, Ortiz said it is "important that you are able to accelerate and remove these hazards. They were determined to be Superfund sites for a reason."




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