Deal Close on Superfund Site's Cleanup

East Whiteland Township and the owner of the Cyprus Foote Mineral Co. Superfund site are nearing an agreement on how to clean up the former lithium processing site.

Feb. 9--East Whiteland Township and the owner of the Cyprus Foote Mineral Co. Superfund site are nearing an agreement on how to clean up the former lithium processing site.

Officials from the township and Frazer Exton Development L.L.C., have told the Environmental Protection Agency that they agree on a new method to keep contaminated groundwater from flowing off the site.

"We are cautiously optimistic that we're headed in the right direction," said Christopher Roe, a member of the township's Environmental Advisory Council.

East Whiteland and the landowner have been negotiating for about 18 months on how to clean up the site. Roe's committee is expected to give a report tonight at the township supervisors' meeting, which begins at 7.

Frazer Exton is in partnership with a development company that plans to build an 800-home retirement community on the 79-acre site on Bacton Hill Road once it is cleaned up. The developer, Whiteland Village, said it has received deposits for more than 600 units but also needs township supervisors to approve a zoning change to allow the project.

"I'd say we're seeing eye to eye, but that to me doesn't mean we're through the door yet," said Daniel M. Sevick, president of Whiteland Village's parent company, Roskamp Management. "We're making progress, and I hope that everything breaks the way it looks like it's breaking."

Contaminants such as bromate, a carcinogen, have been found in residential wells as far as 10,000 feet from the site.

Jim Feeney, the site's EPA caseworker, could not be reached for comment yesterday. But last month he said that an agreement between Frazer Exton and East Whiteland could make it easier for the EPA to issue a new cleanup plan.

"If there are two arms of the public at opposite ends, the EPA has to sort that out," he said. "A combined application tells us the public is happy, and that makes a difference."

Frazer Exton is seeking a township permit to demolish the foundations of about 40 buildings and dump the cleaned remains into one of two quarries on the site before the EPA issues a new remedy.

Such work is done "at risk," because there is a chance that the EPA will make Frazer Exton do something else. However, the proposal is similar to one EPA initially recommended.

"We'd like to clean up this site. And we'd like to show we're earnest in our desire to do that by getting started," said Arnon E. Garonzik, president of Frazer Exton Development.

Garonzik proposed similar work last year, but backed off after the township refused to issue a demolition permit.

Most of the on-site contamination, which includes radioactive sand, municipal trash, and mineral processing waste, is already underground in the two former limestone quarries.

The EPA has assumed that groundwater runoff is caused largely by rain, so the agency in August 2003 proposed neutralizing the flow of contaminants off-site by filling and then capping the quarries.

The township found that proposal unacceptable largely because it felt that the plan did not reduce the probability of water flowing through the waste.

The remedy agreed upon by the township and the developer would add to the EPA's initial plan by solidifying the waste with a less permeable, concrete-like substance and would cost $10 million, or more than three times as much as the initial plan.

The site opened in 1932 as a dolomite quarry and processing plant. It was nationalized under the Defense Corp. of America for three years starting in 1943 and became the Foote Mineral Co. in 1946. It was closed in 1991 after it was bought by Cyprus Minerals Co., and was declared a Superfund site in 1992.

Frazer Exton Development is paying for the cleanup.

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