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‘Soup Of Nasty Contaminants’ In South Charleston Site, Expert Says

20201110_Courtland Supplemental CWA NOV-Filmont & Massey Rail Yard - AS SERVED-4.jpg
The Courtland Company
The Filmont Landfill from documents submitted to federal court by lawyers for the Courtland Company.

An expert witness in a federal trial testified that “a soup of nasty contaminants” is leaking from a South Charleston landfill chemical company Union Carbide owns.

Scott Simonton, a professor of industrial and systems engineering at Marshall University, said drums of industrial waste buried in the Filmont Landfill present an “alarming” risk to the environment.

“What we don't know is the full nature and extent of those contaminants, how far they've gone, what they turn into, you know, where they go, how deep they go, how far downstream they go,” Simonton told the U.S. District Court in Charleston Monday.

Simonton added that a full remedial investigation needed to be done to properly gauge the risk of the contamination, which likely traces to waste materials produced at the former Union Carbide South Charleston plant.

Previously, a remediation specialist for Union Carbide, now part of Dow Chemical, testified that there were no hazardous materials buried at the site. It was an active dump from the 1950s to the 1980s.

The specialist, Jerome Cibrik, also said company risk assessments of ecological and human health concluded that no further action needed to be taken.

Simonton was testifying on behalf of Courtland Co., which owns property adjacent to the site and is suing Union Carbide over the contamination. Courtland has filed four lawsuits against Union Carbide since 2018, alleging the landfill violates state and federal clean water laws.

Simonton further testified that levels of methane present in soil samples at the site presented a potential explosion risk to workers.

He also said the water at the site tested for PFAS — also known as forever chemicals. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently concluded that nearly any level of exposure to PFAS in drinking water is a health risk.

A local ordinance prohibits the extraction of groundwater around industrial sites. But Simonton described how insects, animals and people can still be exposed to pollutants through the food chain.

Energy & Environment Reporter, ctate@wvpublic.org, 202-679-8470, @tatecurtis

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