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Saunders Supply Company

EPA Region 3 (Mid-Atlantic)

Suffolk County

EPA ID# VAD003117389

4th Congressional District

Last Update: January 2015

Other Names


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 still 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. By law, EPA is only allowed to operate long-term actions such as the ground water system for ten years and, at that point, must turn it over to the state. In July 2009, EPA transferred operation and maintenance of the ground water system to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (VDEQ). VDEQ will continue treating and monitoring the ground water until the ground water clean-up levels are met.

The third Five-Year Review Report was issued on December 29, 2014. The finding of the second five-year review is the same as the first five-year review, that the remedy for the site is protective of human health and the environment in the short term. All threats at the site associated with ingestion or dermal contact with contaminated soil and sediment have been addressed through excavation and off-site treatment and disposal. There are no exposures to the contaminated ground water because everyone in the vicinity of the site is connected to the city of Suffolk public water supply and the ground water extraction system has prevented contamination from reaching either Godwins Millpond or MW-19D, the EPA monitoring well closest to the pond. Two issues were brought up through the five-year review process. First, EPA must evaluate the need to perform dioxin sampling beyond the previously excavated area. Second, EPA must determine that foam was not used in firefighting exercises or sample groundwater for PFOA and PFOS. Long-term protectiveness will be achieved when cleanup goals are met. The next five-year review report is due by December 2019.

Site Description

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.

Site Responsibility
Cleanup for this site is the responsibility of the federal and state governments.
NPL Listing History
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.

Threats and Contaminants

The groundwater is primarily contaminated with PCP from wood-treating process wastes. A localized area with high levels of arsenic in the ground water is also present. The groundwater flow is toward the reservoir, a drinking water source. A nearby freshwater wetland may be threatened by site contamination.

Contaminant descriptions and risk factors are available from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, an arm of the CDC.

Cleanup Progress

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 ongoing (at the time) 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, and 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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