PLYMOUTH, Maine — About 30 residents attended a public hearing Tuesday night to hear about a compensation plan for the Hows Corner Superfund Site that will provide 700 acres for public recreation, snowmobiling and hunting.
The Hows Corner site on Sawyer Road was uncovered in 1988 after George West Jr. had accepted more than 235,000 gallons of waste oil, solvents and other substances at his facility in west Plymouth. The site ultimately contaminated 10 home wells and affected more than 200 acres. The pollutants made their way through fractured bedrock. The Maine Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have determined that it could take more than 100 years for the water to run clean again.
Meanwhile, a settlement for compensation has been reached in legal action brought by the environmental agencies against the businesses, schools and towns that contributed to the oil supply at Hows Corner.
The settlement proposes that the responsible parties make up for the environmental damage caused at the Hows site by making a gift of 700 acres of land that will be protected forever.
David Wright, director of remediation for the DEP, and Terry Connelly, EPA’s project manager, explained the proposal Tuesday night.
The plan calls for 650 acres along Martin Stream in Plymouth Bog to be owned and managed by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife as a natural resource and recreation area.
Residents asked few questions about this plan, once they were assured that the land would remain open for snowmobiling, hunting, fishing and trapping.
A second, 50-acre parcel would abut the existing Plymouth Water District off Route 7 and provide protection and insurance for the area water supply.
Wright explained that the purchase of the gifted land was being made by the collective “potentially responsible parties” to the Hows site, a group of about 100. Since they are buying it, they will also have the final decision to go ahead with the purchase, Wright said, and the plan has been tentatively approved.
“But we are looking for feedback, looking for people’s thoughts,” he said. “All parties understand we need to bring this to a close.”
There were few questions about the plan. However, many had questions relating to the current status of the Hows Corner site.
Connelly explained that samples are taken quarterly from homes in the area and “typically, no site-related contamination is found.”
The EPA continues to test area homes for vapor intrusion, he said, and a pump station will be constructed by the fall of 2010 on the site itself. Connelly explained that this pump station will take contaminated water, run it through a charcoal filter and then put it back in the ground. By doing this, he said, the most heavily contaminated area will be kept from spreading beyond the Hows site.
“It will not ever get to Plymouth Pond,” Connelly assured one audience member.
Connelly also made it clear that with this gift, only the compensation portion of the responsible parties’ obligation will be fulfilled. They will still be responsible for ongoing projects at Hows Corner.