I-TEAM: ‘Some of the most contaminated;’ What you need to know about Miami Valley Superfund sites

They’re some of the most toxic sites in the country and they’re right here in the Miami Valley.

In November, News Center 7 reported the U.S. EPA announced that remediation work at the Valleycrest landfill site between Valley Street and State Route 201 had been completed and that the site had been removed from the federal agency’s Superfund list.

Now that the Valleycrest site has come off the Superfund list, the I-Team looked into the Superfund sites that remain in the Miami Valley. Here’s what we found:

The News Center 7 I-Team investigated county by county to find the most contaminated sites in our area and talked to neighbors about the potential danger next door.

Shirley Street says she loves her neighborhood in Riverside. She’s lived there a long time. “My youngest is 52,” Street said. “And he started kindergarten here. So probably about 40-some years.”

But there’s one thing she tells the I-Team she’s not so fond of here: living near a U.S. EPA Superfund site. “Yeah, it’s a concern,” Street told the I-Team’s lead investigative reporter, John Bedell.

“A superfund site is a site that has been assessed for possible risks to the human health and the environment surrounding the site,” Tim Fischer, a manager with the U.S. EPA’s Superfund program for the federal agency’s regional office that covers Ohio.

Fischer tells the I-Team that extensive testing determines whether a location becomes a Superfund site – making it eligible for federal funds to pay for investigation and cleanup.

“There’s an assessment process we go through to determine if a site is eligible,” Fischer said. “And levels of contamination is one of the things that we look at.”

Fischer said Superfund sites are “typically some of the most complicated, most contaminated sites because the federal government has resources to handle those.”

The U.S. EPA has a web page listing the Superfund sites in Ohio.

One of them in the Miami Valley is along Valley Pike just west of Harshman Road in Riverside. The U.S. EPA says the groundwater there is contaminated with a group of chemicals known as volatile organic compounds, or VOCs.

The U.S. EPA says Mullins Rubber Products (MRP) once used VOCs as a part of its manufacturing process. The federal agency lists MRP’s address on Valley Pike as the location of the Superfund site here.

Vapors from the toxic groundwater have impacted a nearby residential neighborhood that includes roughly 500 homes. The U.S. EPA says “the neighborhood is located approximately 900 feet southwest of the Mullins Rubber Products, Inc. (MRP) facility.”

“We live in this community and hope it’s going to be safe for us and everybody that’s living in it,” Andrea Malmsbury, of Riverside, told the I-Team.

“Yeah, I’ve been a little concerned over it,” Charles Norris Jr., also of Riverside, added. Both Norris and Malmsbury live in the neighborhood near the MRP facility.

The U.S. EPA lists 17 Superfund sites in Ohio. Of those, five of them are in the Miami Valley.

In Troy, there’s one over a 20-square block area that sits southeast of Water and Walnut Streets on the banks of the Great Miami River. The U.S. EPA says it’s mostly common industrial chemicals that have contaminated groundwater, soil, and indoor air in some homes and businesses.

In 2007, the EPA installed systems to remove harmful vapors in 16 homes and an elementary school “to address the indoor air health risk in the area.”

Also in Miami County, along County Road 25-A just south of Eldean Road, the U.S. EPA says improper disposal of municipal and industrial wastes at old landfills here that closed in 1978 contaminated soil, sediment, and groundwater. These days, Miami County operates several facilities on other parts of the property.

The U.S. EPA profile web page for the site says the groundwater plume, “contaminated wells of many residents who live near the site. The companies determined to be responsible for the contamination connected homes with affected wells to public water supplies.”

The U.S. EPA tells the I-Team it is finished with cleanup there and is now monitoring the site to make sure cleanup functions like it’s supposed to.

It is an old landfill site,” Fischer told the I-Team. “It is fenced off. We have waste covers in place to prevent exposure to the contamination that remains there. The monitoring that we continue to do is make sure that the fencing remains intact, (that) it’s locked, (that) people don’t have access to the site. But then we’re also collecting information with respect to groundwater contamination, landfill gases, potentially to make sure that if there’s anything that looks like it could present a danger in the future we address that right away.”

In Dayton, near the intersection of Webster and Leo Streets, the groundwater is contaminated with VOCs too. MAHLE Behr Dayton now runs a plant on the property that the Chrysler Corporation once owned and operated from the late 1930s until 2002.

On its web page profile for this Superfund site, the EPA says, “other facilities in the vicinity may have also contributed to the groundwater contamination,” and adds, “In 2009 Behr Dayton Thermal Products LLC (now MAHLE Behr Dayton LLC) took over the ongoing operation, maintenance, and monitoring activities of vapor mitigation systems to prevent accumulation in businesses and homes of harmful vapors associated with the site. MAHLE Behr Dayton is also required to install any necessary additional vapor mitigation systems. These activities are ongoing.”

Right now, there’s an asphalt plant and other businesses near Dryden and Nicholas roads along the Great Miami River in Moraine. But there used to be an old dump and landfill that contaminated the soil with things like lead and mercury and groundwater with chemicals like vinyl chloride and benzene. The U.S. EPA lists what’s been done to clean up the site and what the current site status is on its profile web page for this Superfund site.

During a one-on-one interview with Tim Fischer, the I-Team’s lead investigative reporter, John Bedell, asked, “For these five (Superfund) sites in the Miami Valley that we have: is it safe to live near there or to work near or on the site?”

Fischer answered: “It is safe to live or work near the Superfund sites we’re working on.”

Back in that Riverside neighborhood near Mullins Rubber, Bedell asked Norris Jr., “What do you think when you hear that from (the U.S. EPA)?”

“I hope they’re right,” Norris said. “Because you’re putting a lot of people at risk if you’re wrong.”

More information on the U.S. EPA’s Superfund program is available here.