April 25, 2014

Elyria
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Superfund cleanup complete at former Ford Road landfill

ELYRIA — In the world of Superfund sites — contaminated areas the federal Environmental Protection Agency designates as needing to be cleaned up — 10 years is a relatively short time.

That was the consensus Tuesday as federal and local officials walked the former Ford Road landfill to examine the culmination of a decade-long remediation project. Officials traversed the cleared site and were in awe that an area that once accepted municipal and various industrial wastes in drums and in bulk into the 1970s is now as innocuous as an empty field.

“Back in the 1950s, I’m sure the neighbors knew this area was a landfill and dump, and maybe in the 1970s people knew if their neighbors told them, but now I don’t think anyone will ever be able to tell what this site used to be,” said Patrick Steerman, project coordinator for Steerman Environmental, the company hired to fund the project on behalf of those companies the EPA identified as responsible for the contamination.

“It feels good to see the end of a project. I have dealt with Superfund sites that are several decades old and still not restored.”

The landfill was used by the former Browning Ferris Industries, now known as Allied Waste, Goodrich, Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Co.

Located just a stone’s throw from the Bur Oak picnic area of the Black River Reservation, the landfill, which is now green space and trees that the Lorain County Metro Parks has owned for years, will never be able to be developed, but it is considered safe for residents, wildlife and the environment as a whole.

“Now that we have remedied the landfill, there is no type of human threat, concern or worry,” said Demaree Collier, remedial project manager of the Superfund Division for the U.S. EPA. “This site will likely get a reassessment showing no ill effects from the landfill. I have no concerns even for myself if I lived in the area. It’s a great spot — safe and sound.”

Collier said EPA restrictions prohibit anyone from digging beneath the several-feet-thick cap of soil covering the landfill, but it is an area that could be used for recreational trails if the Metro Parks so desired.

Metro Parks Director Jim Ziemnik said there are no such plans.

“Historically, where we took over this area, the issues were unbeknownst to us. No, we don’t have any plans for the area,” he said. “We have always taken the appropriate responsibility as the current owners, mowed the field and had our employees trained on the monitoring system, and we will continue with that for the foreseeable future.”

Mayor Holly Brinda, who donned a pair of boots to walk the muddy site, said she has been trying for many months to reassure residents of the site’s safety, especially after an article that sensationalized potential dangers at the site in a Cleveland weekly alternative publication years ago resurfaced earlier this year via the Internet.

Now, she said, she can tell residents she has seen the work firsthand and is confident no dangers exist.

“This is really a beautiful area. The Black River runs though here, and I can see the beauty,” she said.

Work on the site was completed in two phases for $3.5 million. The area was regraded to keep the waste covered, hillside slopes were reduced to make them more stable, and some contaminated soil near the river was removed.

EPA regulations require groundwater monitoring at the site for 15 years.

Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or lroberson@chroniclet.com.