EPA presents plans for final cleanup at Davis Superfund site

EPA presents plans for final cleanup at Davis Superfund site

SMITHFIELD – Responding to complaints of chemical odors in private water supplies, Smithfield found that a variety of chemicals contaminated drinking water wells surrounding the Davis Liquid Waste Superfund site in the 1970s.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s decades-long cleanup efforts are nearing completion at the Davis Superfund site located off Tarkiln Road in Smithfield. The EPA was set to host a video call Wednesday evening to hear public comment on the proposed groundwater cleanup plan.

“The remaining threat to human health and the environment is groundwater contamination,” the EPA’s report states.

The site has been on the National Priorities List for Superfund sites since 1983, according to David Deegan of the EPA.

The 7-acre property lies between Tarkiln Road and Log Road in northwestern Smithfield, surrounded by forested wetlands in the north and wetlands in the south. According to the EPA, surface water into Latham Brook enters Stillwater Reservoir, a tributary of the Woonasquatucket River.

The EPA is proposing the interim remedy to begin treating and monitoring the effectiveness of treatment over several years, Deegan said.

“The meeting this week is designed to both inform area residents about EPA’s proposed plan to address groundwater contamination, and also is one way that interested parties may provide formal comments to the EPA on our proposed plan,” he said.

The plan includes treatment of groundwater in the shallow bedrock zone containing the majority of contamination, monitoring the contaminated groundwater plume to evaluate remedy performance, and controls to prevent exposure.

The performance will be assessed over 12 years, and the total project is estimated to cost $6.7 million.

Town Manager Randy Rossi said he was glad the EPA was hosting the discussion and allowing Smithfield’s voices to be heard.

“We’re the guests at this meeting,” he said.

He said the plan shows final cleanup happening in May 2022. Rossi said the property owners, the Davis family, are considering putting a solar farm on the site, but cleanup of the site must be completed first.

“This is important because there are a lot of potential areas affected by it, including residents. It’s a critical discussion for a game plan to keep our residents safe,” Rossi said.

He said while he has heard rumblings around town about the water near the superfund site, the town has not received any formal complaints yet.

The property owner disposed of a variety of liquid and solid waste containing hazardous substances in the 1970s.

The site accepted contaminants such as paint and metal sludge, oily wastes, solvents, acids, caustics, pesticides, phenols, halogens, metals, fly ash and lab pharmaceuticals, all of which contaminated the groundwater at the site and surrounding areas.

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“Nearby private wells were found to be contaminated by wastes emanating from the site in bedrock groundwater,” the EPA said.

The EPA conducted a remedial investigation study in 1987, which led to a deal with the responsible parties to clean up “major contaminants of concern in the overburden and bedrock groundwater,” exceeding federal and state standards. Parties agreed to clean the site under EPA and Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management oversight.

“Tank trucks directly discharged liquid wastes into unlined lagoons and seepage pits. Drums containing chemicals and laboratory containers were burins on-site or crushes,” stated the EPA.

From 1985 to 1986, the EPA sampled 600 drums of soils from the property. At the same time, the RIDEM provided drinking and cooking water to homes with contaminated wells.

In 1997, the EPA and RIDEM built a 300,000-gallon water tank, pumping stations and connections to existing residents and undeveloped lots.

Since 1990, 5,000 tons of solid waste, soils and 800 drums and containers were removed from the site. In the following two years, 20,000 tons of contaminated soil, waste, and debris for disposal were removed, and 788,000 tons of contaminated soils were treated for on site.

In addition, more than 300 trees were planted to restore the habitat.

People interested in providing feedback to the EPA beyond this week’s meeting may do so by emailing luce.darryl@epa.gov, faxing 617-918-0337, calling 617-918-1820, or by mail at U.S. EPA Region 1, Mail code: 07-01, 5 Post Office Square, Boston, MA 02109.

Comments are accepted through July 15. For more information, visit www.epa.gov/superfund/davisliquid .