Superfund site threat ended

Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Some metal drums remain in the old Lewisburg Casting building where other barrels were labeled to indicate the contents were corrosive.

Removal of hazardous liquids from a closed 67-year-old factory has been completed, two Lewisburg residents were notified on Friday by the Environmental Protection Agency under the federal Superfund Law.

"'The site does not pose an immediate threat to release hazardous substances,'" Lewisburg-based attorney Bob Binkley said Tuesday when quoting EPA's letter to his client, Billy Wayne Adams, a co-owner of the building at 643 Bridgeview St.

Federal environmental protection officials this year and last used their authority under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980, better known as the Superfund Law, to clean up the site contaminated with hazardous substances, and deal with the costs after the environment and public health are protected.

In 1980, Adams, 89, and his partner, Amos Bond, bought at auction the old Lewisburg Casting building that was constructed in 1943, Adams said. They cleaned the old foundry so it could be leased. Ken-Koat and, subsequently, Trison Coatings used the building, but have since ceased operations. Bond died about three years ago, leaving his widow, June, with her name on documents related to the site. Her niece, Melissa Farrar of Atlanta, is helping her aunt deal with the situation.

"We don't know what their next steps will be," Farrar said. "The EPA was good to work with and we're interested in bringing it (the building) back to viable use."

Farrar and Binkley say it's unclear what the costs are for removing the hazardous waste and who is going to pay the bill. That's a concern for the widow and her late husband's former partner.

Costs, according to documents obtained from the EPA, have been estimated between $155,000 and $250,000.

"Many drums were labeled as containing corrosive liquids," EPA records show. "Field testing indicated many of the drums contained a mix of a dark oily liquid floating on a clearer corrosive liquid."

Binkley declined to comment on the nature of the alleged corrosive liquids, but he did note there's a discrepancy of $95,000 in the two estimates.

"In my experience, original estimates vary greatly," said Binkley who represented Lewisburg when a city landfill was declared a Superfund site and required cleanup. Binkley's work led to a de-listing of the old dump from he Superfund list.

Still, the Superfund site on Bridgeview Street remains unresolved.

"As owners of the properties, they (Bond and Adams) are 'Potential Responsible Parties (PRPs),'" Binkley said, using EPA terms. "Other PRPs are the various ... companies that used the building ... who becomes liable and what the total expense could be is speculative."

Binkley quoted a March 8 EPA document that lists a "'Suspected PRP: Unknown.'"

"The EPA," Adams said at the building Monday, "has got its own lawyers working on it."

Steve Spurlin is EPA's on-scene coordinator. He works from an office in Jackson, Tenn., and serves a broad area in the southeast. He's said the cleanup was completed in June. That followed legal notices published here in April.

The materials removed appeared to be acids and bases used to clean, polish and/or prepare metal, Spurlin said. After the tenants stopped paying rent, Adams and Bond called the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. Its officials called EPA. Spurlin's comments indicate that Adams and Bond are victims under the circumstances, but that the Superfund law calls for casting a wide net toward recovering environmental cleanup costs.

"The group (of experts with EPA) that does cost recovery may decide to dig deeper and try to find another party, or funds," Spurlin said.