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Energy & Environment

Decision Still Pending On Carbide Landfill Temporary Restraining Order

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An image from the lawsuit filed in federal court against Union Carbide Corp. alleging an illegal landfill is releasing toxic chemicals into Davis Creek and the Kanawha River.

There is a mostly forgotten industrial landfill in South Charleston near Davis Creek and not far from the Kanawha River. That much is certain. Even Union Carbide Corp., which built the Filmont Landfill in the 1950s and operated it into the 1980s, admits it is there.

Whether the landfill is leaking hazardous chemicals into Davis Creek and the Kanawha River is the subject of a number of legal filings in federal court in recent months.

One of those filings was a request by the Courtland Co. for a Temporary Restraining Order to immediately eliminate the stormwater runoff, and direct discharges, from the landfill into Davis Creek and Ward Branch. Courtland owns property adjacent to the landfill. The request also asked for Union Carbide to submit a permit application to the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection.

Two weeks after a three-day hearing in front of Senior U.S. District Judge John T. Copenhaver, of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia, there is still no decision from the judge.

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An archival photo of a fire at the Filmont Landfill in 1966, showing barrels in the foreground.

During the hearing, Scott Simonton, Ph.D, an expert called to the stand by Courtland, explained that the Filmont Landfill is effectively a plateau built up higher than the surrounding property. Documents indicate waste in the site includes drums and hazardous materials, asbestos, fly ash and potash from the power plant, industrial solids and hazardous waste.

Last fall, Simonton used a kayak to row up Davis Creek to take samples and photographs of the edge of Filmont where it meets Davis Creek. He told the court that there was evidence of seep discharge into the water. He explained seep discharge is water that filters through the landfill and then seeps out draining into Davis Creek or Ward Branch, which is a tributary of Davis Creek. Spring rains saturate the landfill and leak out the rest of the year.

“Parts of the landfill were underwater as of a few days before the hearing,” he said. That would have washed away sludge and chemicals that had seeped out of the landfill.

Simonton said that the landfill is situated within the floodplain.

Throughout the hearing, both sides discussed the presence of iron in the seeps coming out of the landfill. Union Carbide’s attorney Martin Shelton portrayed the iron as naturally occurring or possibly the result of the metal recycling currently underway on the Courtland property.

He noted that creating a pumping system to remove the runoff from the landfill would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, and millions for a pipeline, to pump water to a treatment facility for iron that hasn’t been shown to be a problem.

Simonton said that the sample he took from sludge on the edge of the landfill had one of the highest concentrations of iron he had ever seen.

“And the further you get from the landfill, the less iron you see,” he said. “Pumping away and treating the surface water from Filmont would result in a near immediate improvement of the water quality on Ward Branch and Davis Creek. We are going into the spring, boating, fishing and spawning season. Addressing this now would have a positive impact.

It’s urgent. It has been urgent.”


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