April 3, 2003
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Consultants show soil source areas on YSI Inc.’s property

The search that YSI Incorporated began last October to locate the source area of the contamination on its Brannum Lane property has finally yielded results, a team of consultants from BHE Environmental, Inc. reported at a public meeting Thursday, March 27.

After six months and three rounds of soil and groundwater testing, YSI concluded that the soil in four areas, around the southwest corner of the Old Brannum House, a waste storage shed and former and current shipping dock areas on its property, were the cause of the toxic chemicals leaching into the earth and contaminating the groundwater in the area. Though contamination was found throughout the property, it is most concentrated in those four areas, which YSI calls the source area of contamination.

The results were close to what internal investigators had expected in 2001 when toxic chemicals were discovered in several wells on YSI’s property and on neighboring residential properties, according to Lisa Abel, the YSI investigation project leader.

“Based on discussions with employees on past habits and past practices, there were no surprises,” she said.

The contamination was partly due to toxic waste materials illegally dumped in the late 1980s and early 1990s on the company’s property. The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency has been working with YSI through an administrative order to first eliminate exposure to contaminated groundwater and then to clean up the source areas in the soil.

As part of the legal agreement, YSI was charged with supplying an alternative source of water for nearby residents whose wells were contaminated or in danger of becoming contaminated. YSI worked with the Village to provide municipal water to those neighbors who wanted it. The Village finished extending water lines to neighboring properties in January, and according to the Village utility billing department, so far the Springs Motel, two residents on U.S. 68, one on Golden Willow Court and one on Brannum Lane, are using Yellow Springs water.

A comprehensive report on the newly identified source areas and potential cleanup measures will be released for public comment on May 5, according to Eric Riechert, director of site assessments for BHE.

“We think we have a good handle on the depth and width of the source area,” he said. “The next report concerns where is the contamination in the soil that might affect the groundwater.”

The contaminants in the source area, are the same seven that were identified in earlier soil and water samples taken by YSI and the Ohio EPA in 2001 and 2002: 1,1-dichloroethane, 1,1-dichlorothene, 1,1,1-trichloroethane (TCA), carbon tetrachloride, tetrachloroethene, chloroform and 1,4-dioxane.

Of these chemicals, only TCA was found to be at or above safe levels for soil and groundwater at the Old Brannum House area and at the current dock area, Abel said.

The investigation ruled out as source areas the Webb Building on the north end of the property and an area near the northwest corner of the campus.

The only chemical previously found in the groundwater in three neighboring residential wells to be above the accepting limits for drinking water was 1,1-dichloroethene.

The remediation methods that YSI will consider, according to a preliminary report from BHE, include several soil treatment options as well as containment and removal of contaminated soils. “Simple” and “quick” precautions include instituting restrictions to limit human contact with contaminated areas and possibly capping or sealing off the area from exposure, according to Riechert.

Removing the source areas would address the contamination directly, but excavating soils from underneath existing buildings can be difficult and may not be the best option, Riechert said. He discussed three methods for treating the soils on site; including vacuum extraction of volatile vapors, incinerating the contaminants or using microorganisms to metabolize the contaminants.

Abel said that YSI would likely use a combination of soil remediation methods, utilizing specific actions that would best address the contamination of specific areas. Cleanup could possibly begin by late summer, Abel said, after the official source area report is returned to YSI with comment from the public and from the Ohio EPA.

In the meantime, YSI continues to conduct groundwater testing off its property to determine the extent of the contamination plume. A report on the extent of the plume should also be ready by the end of the summer, Abel said.

—Lauren Heaton