News Feature

Originally published in The Weekly Packet, August 1, 2013
Second phase of Callahan Mine cleanup to finish in September
Third phase still in design stage

by Anne Berleant

Two months after work crews arrived to resume cleanup at the Callahan Mine site, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency held a hearing at the Brooksville Townhouse to update the public on progress at the contaminated site.

The 150-acre former mine, declared a federal Superfund site in 2002, is owned by Smith Cove Preservation Trust, registered in Brecksville, Ohio. At a July 2012 update on cleanup efforts, a legal representative from the trust detailed the possible donation of the land to the town (free of any cleanup costs), but no further action has been taken by the trust.

Project Manager Ed Hathaway said this is the third year that crews are working to remove PCBs—polychlorinated biphenyls—from the soil, and is the second of three phases of the overall cleanup.

“The good news is that 90 percent [of this phase] is done, sampled, clean,” he said.

Hathaway said the EPA has taken over 2,000 soil samples to date.

The second phase, called OU2, is taking longer than anticipated because soil samples, taken every 10 feet, discovered hazardous PCBs levels “all over,” said Hathaway, not just at the foundations of the mine-operating equipment.

“In 25 years of doing this, I haven’t seen a contaminated pattern like this,” he said. “Every time we went in thinking we were clean, we found more.”

However, according to maps the EPA made available at the meeting, much of the site is now contamination free, and Hathaway said OU2 would be completed by September.

One change in the original OU2 plan is that soil with less than 10 ppm will now be placed under a soil cover rather than be removed. During the third phase of the project (named Operable Unit 3), a permanent plastic cap will be installed. Hathaway said covering rather than removing this soil saves 486 trucks of contaminated soil from moving through the area.

Overall, OU3 will deal with contaminated areas that pose the most threat to the surface water, sediments and groundwater, specifically, the ore pad, waste rock pile 3, and the mine operations area. Contaminated waste, soils and sediment will be deposited in a confined aquatic disposal (CAD) cell in the submerged former mine pit in Goose Pond.

Operable Unit 3 will also include final restoration of disturbed areas and wetland mitigation. The total cost of this third phase is $22.8 million—five times its originally projected cost, Hathaway said.

The Maine Department of Transportation is responsible for the design of OU3. Once it is complete, the EPA will seek funding to complete the work. Hathaway estimated it could take up to 10 years to complete this final phase.

“[The DOT’s] pace is subject to their level of funding,” said Hathaway.

Representative Ralph Chapman (D-Brooksville), who attended the meeting, said the state’s two-year transportation budget, which is separate from the state budget passed last month, allocated $900,000 in surplus funds for the project.

“The controversy about this mine site is, are we doing too much or doing not enough?” Chapman said.

Of the $6.6 million cost of the ongoing second phase of cleanup, the federal SuperFund program is covering 90 percent —about $6 million—while Maine pays the remaining 10 percent, around $600,000.