AUGUSTA — After 30 years of monitoring and millions of dollars of cleanup work, the O’Connor Superfund Site on Eastern Avenue is ready to be removed from the national priorities list, according to the federal Environmental Protection Agency.
The agency now is seeking comments from the public with regard to that proposal.
The 28-acre parcel near Cony Road formerly housed the F. O’Connor scrap metal business and is owned by Central Maine Power Co. The Augusta-based utility discarded transformers, capacitors and other electrical equipment there for more than 30 years beginning in the 1950s.
In 1983, the former junkyard was designated a Superfund site because the land and groundwater was polluted by high levels of toxic chemicals that drained from that equipment.
“There’s been sufficient cleanup so it would no longer merit being on that list,” said Terry Connelly, EPA remedial project manager for the O’Connor site. He said removing it is appropriate because the utility company has no plans to disturb the soil or develop the site. However, Connelly said it could go back on the list if new information came to light.
One Eastern Avenue neighbor, Lionel Rodrigue, said he was unaware of the proposal to remove the site from the priorities list, but he had few concerns about it.
“They’re all done doing what they were going to do,” he said. “They did clean up a lot of what was on top of the ground and hauled the dirt away.”
Rodrigue said he and his brother Raymond live in the home that belonged to their late parents.
“We’ve got city water, and I’m not concerned about the well water,” Lionel Rodrigue said. He said he occasionally sees people going onto the site to check the monitoring wells.
Some PCB contamination was found in a drainage swale on Rodrigue property and another neighboring property about 15 years ago, and was addressed promptly, according to stories published at the time in the Kennebec Journal.
The federal government and CMP entered into a formal consent agreement in July 1990, intending to expedite the cleanup and avoid prolonged litigation. That agreement was amended in 2002 and remains in effect. Objectives cited are “to protect public health, welfare and the environment from releases or threatened releases of waste material at and from the site by the investigation, development, design and implementation of remedial and monitoring programs. …” The site will continue to be monitored by CMP or its consultant “to make sure restrictions are being followed.”
Connelly said he was at the O’Connor site most recently last month.
Anyone who wants to submit comments on removing the O’Connor site from the national priorities list can email Connelly at [email protected] or write to him at: Terry Connelly, U.S. EPA Remedial Project Manager, 5 Post Office Square, Boston, MA 02109-3912.
“Frankly I don’t expect any comments,” he said. “When the soil cleanup action is completed, then the community loses interest in the site.”
In 2002, after an unknown volume of oil was located in the groundwater beneath the site, 10 people turned up for a public informational meeting.
Over the years, the discarded equipment has been removed from the site, along with 30,000 cubic yards of soil contaminated with PCBs. Soil where the PCB contamination was less than 10 parts per million was consolidated in one area and covered with about 24,000 cubic yards of clean fill. Oil was pumped from the groundwater for about four years, and then absorbent material was placed down the wells to soak up remaining material.
The costs were covered by CMP, and Connelly said he did not have an accounting. CMP officials did not respond to phone messages left Thursday and Friday asking about the O’Connor site. However, previously published stories provided estimates of $15 million for at least some of the cleanup.