Funding to continue for Beacon Heights

Chemtura Corp. will continue to fund the monitoring and cleaning of pollution at the Beacon Heights Landfill.

A district judge and Chemtura last month reached a settlement agreement last month in which the company must pay approximately $26 million to monitor and clean up 17 contaminated properties across the country. One of those sites is the Beacon Heights Landfill Superfund on Blackberry Road in Beacon Falls.

The parcel is one of two local sites Chemtura was ordered to continue cleaning, the other being the Laurel Park Superfund site in Naugatuck.

The company has been trying to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, which it filed for in March 2009, and was hoping to be absolved of its financial responsibilities at sites across the country in light of its financial difficulties.

A Superfund is the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s program aiming to clean up the nation’s uncontrolled hazardous waste sites. The parcel is currently maintained and no new threats have arisen, but the town has been draining leachate, a liquid that mixes with the chemical waste and is drained through sewer systems, for several years.

“It’s a clean site in the sense that it’s very safe,” said Beacon Falls First Selectman Susan Cable said. “There’s still leachate coming out from underground; it has lessened, but it’s still coming. We have to treat that at our sewer plant, and [Chemtura] send us a check to do this.”

The Beacon Heights Landfill covers 83 acres on the crest of a large hill adjacent to Blackberry Road. The landfill was closed in 1979, but had operated sporadically from l920 till its closing. The site functioned as a minimum-cover landfill for mixed Research performed by the EPA found groundwater at the site to be contaminated. The Beacon Heights site was the first landfill in Connecticut where water pollution was found, and was promptly added to the Superfund list in 1983.

The pollutants present were in the form of volatile organic compounds such as methylene chloride, chlorobenzene, dichloromethane, and methyl acetate. These and many more pollutants were found in the groundwater as well as the surface water at the parcel. The pollutants escape the landfill in the form of leachate, a problem that is expected to cease at some point.

“The understanding is this leachate would eventually stop,” said Cable. “That has yet to happen. So as long as we’re treating what comes off that mountain they are responsible for the expense it takes to do that.”

Cable is pleased with the work and funding Chemtura has provided at the parcel.

“They’ve done everything they’re supposed to and done a good job up until this point,” said Cable. “I think it’s probably disheartening to them that there’s still some leachate that needs to be treated form the underground flow, because eventually they were hoping that would subside, and it hasn’t. I know it’s burdensome but it’s their responsibility, and I’m sure they’ll continue to do a good job.”

If the ruling had gone the opposite way and Chemtura were absolved of its duty to clean the site, the town would have needed to find an alternate source of funding. For this reason, Cable views this as a significant decision for Beacon Falls.

“It’s important because as long as we have the expense of treating it, then it’s their responsibility to pay,” Cable said. ”I understand the difficulty in it, but we don’t need to take on their responsibilities.”