The primary chemicals in the groundwater are small amounts of tetrachloroethylene (or PCE) that typically comes from dry-cleaning of clothes and trichloroethylene (or TCE) that is used for degreasing and cleaning. There are also low levels of BTEX (benzene, toluene, ethyl benzene and xylenes), commonly found in gasoline and petroleum based cleaning solvents. All of these chemicals are used commonly in urban environments.
Are these chemicals harmful?
These chemicals are regulated by EPA because they are identified as hazardous. The investigation will evaluate how much is in the groundwater and the potential for future exposure. The contaminants in the downtown area are fairly common in urban areas, and can originate from many types of sources, such as drycleaners, printers, auto repair shops, and gasoline stations. All of EPA’s and the Alliance’s evaluations have shown that there is no current exposure to the contaminants and thus no risk to the general public.
Is the drinking water safe?
Yes, the drinking water is safe. Groundwater in the downtown area is not used for drinking water. Public water comes from wells in the west and southwest parts of the county (40%) and the Tallapoosa River (60%). The City of Montgomery has a no-well ordinance that prohibits drilling of any new water wells in the downtown area.
What was done about the odors in the County building and AG Building?
Montgomery County investigated the source of the odors and installed a filtration system for the air inside the building. The odors in the AG building were related to carpet in the building. The carpet was removed and replaced in 2012. The remedial actions already taken have abated the odors, and there have been no further complaints. None of the testing performed by EPA and it’s contractor showed a health risk.
Are citizens at risk?
No. The groundwater is 25 feet or more below the ground surface so there is little risk of any exposure to contaminants. The City passed an ordinance in 2003 to prohibit drilling of any new wells in the downtown area. The wells formerly located near downtown have been closed.
Why spend money cleaning up something people are not exposed to?
It is part of the process required by EPA and ADEM to bring regulatory oversite to closure and to allow downtown redevelopment to continue.
Work at this site has been going on since the early 1990s. Why is it taking so long to clean-up this site?
These projects typically take many years to complete. There has been a lot of work done at the site over the past 25 years to study the site, along with closing of wells and passing an ordinance that new wells can’t be drilled in the downtown area. A plan will be developed to outline the additional work to be completed to develop a final remedy for the site.
How long is the investigation expected to last?
The investigation is expected to take 2 to 3 years. Then, an estimate of the remedy time, if necessary, can be provided.
How long will it take to complete the final clean-up?
The Alliance has submitted a workplan that outlines the steps to complete the investigation and develop a remedy for the site. The first step is to summarize and evaluate site data. A few areas where additional information is needed have been identified, so there will be limited testing downtown. After all of the information is evaluated, remedy options will be evaluated and implemented.
What are remedy options?
It is premature to determine remedies at this point. All remedies to be considered will be protective of public health. There are many options including active and passive treatments, as well as governmental controls, such as ordinances and permits. The Alliance will provide more information when the site evaluation is complete and alternatives are better defined.