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The Saunders Supply Company Site, located in Suffolk County, Virginia, is a 7-1/3 acre former wood treating plant. Although wood treating operations ceased in June 1991, it is still an active lumber yard. Between 1964 and 1984, a mixture of pentachlorophenol (PCP) and fuel oil was used as the wood preservative. In 1974, the chromated copper arsenate process was added. Part of the spent PCP/oil sludge was disposed of by burning it in an unlined pit or a conical burner on site, resulting in the generation of dioxin compounds. In addition, some of the PCP sludge was sprayed around the site to control weeds. The soil at the wood treating facility and part of the adjoining property was contaminated with arsenic, chromium, copper, PCP, and dioxins. The groundwater in the shallow Columbia aquifer is contaminated with arsenic, chromium, and PCP. The groundwater flow in the aquifer is towards Godwin's Mill Pond, a source of drinking water for more than 30,000 people in the city of Suffolk. Approximately 1,300 people live within three miles of the site, and about 700 people are served by the municipal water systems within a mile of the site.

This site was proposed to the National Priorities List of the most serious uncontrolled or abandoned hazardous waste sites requiring long term remedial action on January 22, 1987. The site was formally added to the list October 4, 1989, making it eligible for federal cleanup funds.

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What Has Been Done to Clean Up the Site?

  • In 1981, the Virginia State Health Department investigated a complaint by the adjoining property owner that a chemical liquid resembling wastewater sludge was found in postholes dug on his property.
  • In 1984, Saunders Supply Company excavated the contaminated material in the pit used to burn the spent PCP/oil mixture and disposed of it in a landfill. They also installed a recovery well and used the recovered water as process water for their wood treating operations.
  • In July 1987, EPA informed Saunders Supply Company of their intention to further investigate the contamination at the site.
  • In 1988, the Saunders Supply Company informed EPA that they did not have the financial resources to perform the work. Subsequently, EPA performed the investigation and, later, the design and implementation of the remedy.
  • A final cleanup decision was reached between EPA and Virginia in late 1991. The major components of the selected remedy included:
    • off-site disposal of pond sediments;
    • low temperature thermal desorption of contaminated soils with on-site disposal;
    • off-site disposal of the concrete pads;
    • groundwater monitoring;
    • deed restrictions to prevent using either the upper or the lower aquifer as a source of groundwater as well as restrictions on off-site groundwater extraction.
  • In 1996, EPA amended the remedy to change treatment and disposal of the contaminated soils to off-site incineration and disposal. By changing the remedy to off-site incineration and disposal, EPA was able to drastically reduce the time required to implement the remedy, reducing the impact on the ongoing operations of the Saunders Supply Company and the business on the adjacent property.

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What Is the Current Site Status?

Long-term ground water cleanup to protect Godwin's Mill Pond, located less than 500 feet from the Saunders Supply Company Site, is ongoing.

The ground water collection, treatment, and monitoring system was constructed by EPA in April 1998, shortly before implementing the long-term, or remedial, cleanup.

In July 2009, EPA transferred operation and maintenance of the ground water system to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (VADEQ). VADEQ will continue treating and monitoring the ground water until the ground water clean-up levels are met.

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Enforcement Information

Federal Register

  • 02/05/2004: Notice of Lodging of Consent Decree Under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act. Department of Justice.
  • 01/07/2004: Notice of Lodging of Consent Decree Under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act. Department of Justice.

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