Task force looking at different angle on damages for former Sylvania site

By Beth A. Birmingham | Dec 05, 2018
Photo by: Beth A. Birmingham Waldoboro's Sylvania Task Force discusses its next step in remediating the former Osram-Sylvania site during a conference call Nov. 30. From left are Mike Thayer, Janet McMahon, Frank Daly, Bob Butler, Johnnie Kosnow and Max Johnstone.

Waldoboro — The lack of improved remediation at the former Osram-Sylvania site in Waldoboro is forcing the town's Sylvania Task Force to seek stronger action from the site's owner, Ledvance.

At a meeting Nov. 30, members of the Task Force held a telephone conference with consultant Joe Guarnaccia, who has 30 years' experience in the remediation industry and whose brother John lives in Waldoboro.

Guarnaccia reported the current pump-and-treat remediation is not controlling the source, as he had suspected would be the case all along.

The detection levels for volatile organic contaminants are higher than the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s maximum contaminant levels and are not going down over time; in fact, in some cases, they are going up.

A recent report states that water samples collected from all five recovery wells and the system contained concentrations of VOCs that were equal to or greater than method detection limits for one or more compounds.

The Task Force is awaiting results of the most recent testing, due in mid-January, which will reveal further details as to how remediation and containment of the plume of VOCs is proceeding.

According to the last engineering report, two new bedrock wells and one overburden monitoring well were completed in August.

Maine Department of Environmental Protection Project Manager Max Luick told the town that the department has received and will review and comment on the “Additional Bedrock Characterization Results Report” by Jan. 11.

"That report will tell us a lot, and hopefully help us figure out what to do next," Janet McMahon, a Task Force member, said.

She said if the need arises for the Task Force to revisit how remediation is being done, there will be an opportunity for another public review, which would be a good time for Waldoboro to raise all of the outstanding concerns about contaminants, modifying the environmental covenant to allow for certain uses, visual blight and the like.

Another avenue Guarnaccia recommended the panel look into is called a Natural Resource Damage and Restoration Assessment, something that has been used at several sites in Maine.

"It’s a way to receive compensation/mitigation/restoration dollars because a public resource has been damaged -- in our case, groundwater," McMahon said.

According to the "State-by-State Guide to NRD Programs," released in March 2018 by Brian D. Israel of Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP, "Maine began NRD work shortly after launching its Superfund program, which was developed in the mid-1980s. At that time, NRD was in its early stages, so there were no mechanisms in place to accurately assess specific damages.

"Consequently, NRD was included in the general settlement of the consent decrees for various Superfund sites. For these sites, past response costs, future oversight costs, and NRD were a part of one total settlement. With regard to marine oil spills, Maine began its NRD work in the early 1990s. The state also seeks NRD for loss of use of groundwater."

Maine’s first major NRD case was the Julie N oil spill in 1996. The tanker struck a bridge and spilled nearly 180,000 gallons of heavy fuel oil into the Fore River. Some of the oil made its way to Stroudwater Marsh and Long Creek. "Fortunately, 78 percent of the oil was recovered," according to the report, but affected resources included surface water, sediments, marine vegetation and birds.

Although remediation continues on the former Osram-Sylvania site, the DEP has set a 2020 date to complete a checklist and get ready for an environmental covenant that would define the site's condition and how it can be repurposed.

Of major concern is a giant slab of concrete that acts as a cap over some of the area that was contaminated.

"The environmental covenant prohibits disturbance or removal of the cap," McMahon said.

The 39-acre piece of prime real estate on Friendship Street has been vacant since 2008. Sylvania used to manufacture the tiny filaments that produce light inside lightbulbs. In 2011, the DEP said the groundwater on the site was contaminated with a number of VOCs -- primarily trichloroethane and tetrachloroethene, solvents used to wash machines employed in manufacturing the filaments.

The industrial site is hazardous because of the continuous air release of tetrachloroethene from an air stripping remediation system, and waste water from the system flows directly into the upper Medomak River estuary -- where some of the most productive fisheries are.

"There is environmental damage," Guarnaccia said. "Although no one is at risk, having this blighted site is not acceptable."

The Task Force discussed several options for improving the site, including walking trails, reforesting and even a solar farm.

"It's really an ugly site," member Mike Thayer said, suggesting bringing in a couple of truckloads of bentonite and planting grass over the slab.

"Modest improvements so it's not a gash in the town," he said.

Town Manager Julie Keizer said maintenance of trails and restoration of the historical Hoffses' house would present financial burdens.

"It's a complicated issue," she said.

Keizer also reminded the panel that the site went a long time without being talked about, until the Task Force was formed two years ago.

"I think they all [the regulators] know there is someone looking out now," Keizer said.

Courier Publications reporter Beth A. Birmingham can be reached at 594-4401 ext. 125 or via email at bbirmingham@villagesoup.com.

The pump-and-treat facility at the former Osram-Sylvania site on Friendship Street in Waldoboro. A task force is keeping the pressure on the DEP, EPA and owner Ledvance for better remediation. (Photo by: Beth A. Birmingham)
The cement slab and parking area at the former Osram-Sylvania site in Waldoboro, where volatile organic contaminants are buried. (Photo by: Beth A. Birmingham)
A task force is looking into what to do with the historic Hoffses' house near the site of the former Osram-Sylvania site. (Photo by: Beth A. Birmingham)
Comments (1)
Posted by: Mary A McKeever | Dec 05, 2018 14:14

Hopefully the O. House would not be torn down. This is such a historic iconic structure, in my opinion. Perhaps a museum for tourists, a history in architecture of the past for school children?

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