Three months after the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved Hilton Davis’ plan to clean up its industrial site in Pleasant Ridge, no progress has been made and some residents still are concerned about the plan’s details, calling them inadequate.
The agency and Hilton Davis worked together for years to come to an agreement on how to clean the contaminated site, located at 2235 Langdon Farm Road, after decades of toxic waste had been dumped there.
“The EPA agreed with the company to get the site up to industrial standards,” says agency spokeswoman Heather Lauer, referring to the March pact.
Opened in 1927, the Pleasant Ridge facility produced dyes, pigments, food coloring and other chemicals for various companies. The processes produced waste that was dumped into open lagoons and ravines nearby.
“Hilton Davis badly contaminated property that is adjacent to lots of residential ones,” says Steve Simon of the Pleasant Ridge Community Council.
Legal action was first sought against Hilton Davis in 1986, when a Hamilton County judge required the company to close its lagoons and address contamination problems. Hilton Davis cleaned the lagoons with much success in 1998, but the ravines were left untouched, Simon adds.
The company has been dumping industrial and hazardous waste into the ravines for 50 years. Many Pleasant Ridge residents are concerned about contaminants from the site seeping into their groundwater and soil, as well as hazardous vapors entering their homes.
The community council wanted the site to be cleaned to at least residential standards, but the EPA decided on the less-stringent industrial ones.
Residential property’s chemical levels must be deemed safe enough for someone to live on the property 24 hours a day, seven days a week for 70 years. Industrial or commercial levels must only be deemed safe for someone to work on it eight hours a day for 30 years.
The council had objections to both standards because they thought neither was tough enough. The EPA’s decision can be appealed but none have yet been filed, Lauer says.
According to Simon, the council is reviewing the matter and considering an appeal but hopes the city of Cincinnati gets involved first.
“It’s 80 acres of valuable land gone,” he says. “What company is going to want to use a property that is so badly contaminated?”
The cleanup plan — known formally as the “Decision Document for Final Corrective Action” — was issued March 18 and addresses how the company will handle the remaining contamination. The decision is based on the EPA’s administrative record of Hilton Davis operations along with public comments, the document states.
Those comments come from a session held by the EPA in February at the Pleasant Ridge Community Center. Residents called for further investigation into the ground water and soil at the site and that Kodak, the parent company of the site’s current owner, North Pastoria Environmental Corp., commits funds to the cleanup process.
Hilton Davis issued a revised work plan to the EPA on Apr. 18. “It’s a lot of what they intend to do,” Lauer says, referring to the document.
As part of the decision, Kodak must implement methods to control exposure to the contaminants using a containment strategy. The strategy will use covers and an environmental covenant, which will restrict on-site ground water usage.
Also, Kodak must create an operation and maintenance program addressing long-term care of the site.
The revised plan is almost identical to the first plan the company issued and that the Pleasant Ridge Community Council voiced concerns about in February, Simon says.
“It’s not a cleanup plan, it’s just covering the contaminated area with a layer of clay,” he adds.
The council urged the EPA to use “source-reduction technologies,” which would remove waste and hot spots of contamination as much as possible, Simon says, but the agency decided against it.
Construction on the site hasn’t begun, but Lauer says the company plans to be completed by year’s end. Simon believes city officials need to get involved because if Kodak doesn’t adequately clean up the property, no one will.
“The lagoons were cleaned out because residents complained about the smell,” Simon says. “But (Hilton Davis) dumped barrels and barrels into the ravines and it isn’t being cleaned out, just covered.”