Public Lab Research note

Stockton Harbor wastes overflown, EPA starts preliminary Superfund review! Data tips?

by ronhuber | July 27, 2014 04:26 27 Jul 04:26 | #10983 | #10983

Exciting news!

  1. Our overflight of the Kidder Point waste site and tidal flat with Project Lighthawk went without a hitch.
  2. US EPA has entered Step 1 the Preliminary Assessment /Site Evaluation phase of a Superfund review of the legacy shoreline wastes dumped along the shores of Stockton Harbor in upper Penobscot Bay!

We need EPA to be as well informed as possible. How best deliver EPA the data it needs?

1. Overflight. On July 17, 2014 Project Lighthawk took Friends of Penobscot Bay photographers on photo runs of the GAC Chemical property especially the abandoned point and its nearby cove. As this link with a small # of photos shows (more to come) wastes continue to leak onto the intertidal flats from the site . Note the continuing red and white waste plumes coming from the waste fill into the mudflats then into the harbor via different outlets from the cove bay. Note. We have many more pictures and are pleased to give you the full sized images as captured by the cameras. Please feel free to download these and all aerial photos on our site or that we send you . (Kindly credit Project Lighthawk)

2. EPA starts Preliminary Assessment This is a hugely important step forward. The Preliminary Assessment is EPA's look at all the information that we and others supply them prior to their making an initial site visit. EPAs website describes this first step as "An assessment of information about a site and its surrounding area. A Preliminary Assessment is designed to determine whether a sites poses little or no threat to human health and the environment or if it does pose a threat, whether the threat requires further investigation."

EPA must get a picture of the geography and hydrology of the site. The chemical history of the various owners of the property down the decades. The documented histories of both phosphogypsum and bauxite mud waste deposition , and the documented spills into those shoreline wastes from extensive sulfuric acid manufacturing, and more. Then EPA must ask itself: are the documented-to-date impacts there possibly severe enough to trigger further review, followed by listing on the NPL the National Priorities List?

Then the Site Evaluation follows: This is a site visit by EPA where they eyeball the site and compare it with the picture they've gotten from the documentation. They will be accompanied by other agencies, along with Friends of Penobscot Bay - not to mention the company's environmental consultant.

EPA's Kelsey O'Neil community resource staffer tasked to work with us, has cautioned that it is always possible that their review of the information sent them, followed by EPAs initial site visit, might NOT trigger further action.

We believe that the evidence we have gathered to date more than meets those trigger standards. However, unless this information is made available to EPA staff in a form that is easy to review , they may not be sufficiently informed to make a clear decision.

The info and data about this site varies widely: historic government fertilizer production figures, core sample results, maps of 1980s acid spills into the flats from the waste shores, pH test results, aerial photographs past (1940) to present., news stories about the sources of the phosphates (central Florida) used in superphosphate manufacturing, anaecdotal reports by former workers at the site. and much more.

What is the best data delivery system for agency reviewers who might otherwise be daunted by having the thousand individual files we are supplying them with and comparing them with info sent them by others?

Can we easily indicate to reviewers where on the spectrum from anecdotal to peer reviewed, each of the file subcollections are Many of our files, for example these: some KIdder Point site -related files online are slightly organized, if at all; most are not usefully accessible .

Please help us make EPA staff comfortably, competently informed.


Are there other examples of briefs sent to the EPA? what should this look like? do folks working with the EPA around the Gowanus Canal or Gulf Coast have some suggestions? @Liz @eustatic @eymund?

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this is awesome. unfortunately a lot of sites i deal with are oil exploration and production waste sites, so are exempt from these USA laws and EPA procedures. but i'm excited to learn. we've got some leaky landfills too, that i way start to monitor via southwings (our lighthawk crew down gulf coast way)

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is this what other people who know the site are seeing?


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Thanks Mathew!

Eustatic I have many more aerial photographs of that site from many angles both from this year and last. Google earth captures the disappearance of the enormous wooden quonset huts that raw sulfur, bauxite and phosphate was stored in. Plus land based closeup of the eroding places and will put these up as a separate research note.

I hope we hear from folks While there are briefs, what may also be helpful is this document:

EPA's "Pre-CERCLIS screening protocol and checklist".
From its Abstract "Pre-CERCLIS screening is a review of information on potential Superfund sites to determine whether the site should be entered into EPA’s Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Information System (CERCLIS). Pre-CERCLIS screening is an initial low-cost look at potential sites to ensure that uncontaminated sites or sites ineligible under CERCLA are not unnecessarily entered into CERCLIS for further Superfund-financed assessment activities. This guidance document establishes minimum requirements for conducting pre-CERCLIS screening assessments..." End of excerpt.

"A review of information"
As our preliminary screening shows the site regrettably impacted badly enough to exceed those minimums
we need to organize the information we have accumulated since the mid 1990s about the site, so it is as easily accessible to EPA's reviewers as possible, as they work through the Checklist Questions. Are there types of indexing, data visualization formats, visualizations and or more that can help them see the details of the site as we see them?



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