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Congressional District # 07


EPA ID# MID980793806
Last Updated: March, 2012

Site Description

The Verona Well field is located in Battle Creek, Michigan. The well field is adjacent to the Battle Creek River, a railroad yard, a small residential area, and is also near industrial facilities. The site contamination impacted three aquifers over an area of approximately 160 acres. In 1981 and 1982, twenty-seven of the thirty Verona Well Field wells as well as 80 private residential wells were found to be contaminated by a number of volatile organic compounds, including benzene, dichloroethanes, dichloroethylenes, methylene chloride, trichloroethylene, tetrachloroethylene, and vinyl chloride. The contamination threatens the drinking water supply for over 53,000 residents. 

The United Stated Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) determined that the sources of contamination were three 1-acre facilities. Two were used for storage, blending and containerization of solvents by the Thomas Solvent Company; one facility was a paint shop operated by the Grand Trunk Western Railroad. Soil and groundwater contamination had resulted from leakage from containers and underground storage tanks, spillage, and direct dumping.

Site Responsibility

U.S. EPA conducted or funded the following actions: in 1982 - 1984 emergency actions to provide bottled water to residents whose private wells were contaminated; in 1984 evaluation of actions to protect the City of Battle Creek water supply, initiation of operation of a line of city production wells to prevent groundwater contamination from contaminating the City's northern water supply wells, and installation of replacement production wells; from 1984 - 1996 State of Michigan operation of a blocking well system; 1984 - 1991 groundwater investigations to identify the sources, evaluate methods to cleanup soil and groundwater, and improve the blocking well system; 1988 - 1992 soil treatment by soil vapor extraction at one of the Thomas Solvent source areas; from 1988 - 2003 State operation of a groundwater pump-and treat system at this source area; and 2009 - present construction and operation of further soil vapor extraction enhanced by air sparging at this source area.  The State took over responsibility for operation and maintenance of this source area pump-and-treat system on May 31, 2003.  

A group of private parties called the Verona Well Field Group (VWFG) and Grand Trunk, who may be responsible for the contamination conducted the following actions: in 1992-1994 soil treatment by soil vapor extraction at the other Thomas Solvent source area and at the Grand Trunk source area; in 1996 construction of a second line of blocking wells, and pump-and treat systems for the two source areas; 1996 - present operation and maintenance of the blocking well and two source area pump-and-treat systems; 2003 - 2004 construction of an expanded blocking system and improvements to the source area pump-and-treat systems; 2004 - present construction and operation of two source area air sparging systems .  In April 2005, private parties entered an agreement with U.S. EPA to complete the soil treatment, and operate the groundwater treatment system until cleanup standards are achieved.  The VWFG has also reimbursed a portion of the Federal costs.

Threats and Contaminants

Prior to implementing the blocking well system, the Verona Well Field was contaminated by a number of volatile organic compounds, including benzene, trichloroethylene, and tetrachoroethylene. This resulted in potential exposure and health threats to users of the City of Battle Creek water supply and to residents with affected residential wells.  Exposure to contaminated groundwater was eliminated by connecting residents to the City water supply and by construction of a blocking well system to capture and remove contaminated groundwater before affecting operational city water supply wells.

Prior to implementing cleanup actions, contaminated soils and groundwater from source areas continued to release contamination that threatened the City well field.  The source area soil vapor extraction, air sparging and pump-and-treat systems are designed to reduce source area contamination and prevent off-site movement of contaminated groundwater from the source areas.  Volatile organic compound concentrations have been substantially reduced in source area soils, source area ground water, and ground water at the blocking wells.

Cleanup Progress

In 1982 - 1984, U.S. EPA provided bottled water and portable showers to the residents with contaminated private wells. In 1984, U.S. EPA converted 12 of the water supply wells into a hydraulic barrier wells system to prevent migration of contaminants to the rest of the city water supply wells. Water from the barrier well system was treated by air stripping and discharged. In addition, U.S. EPA installed three replacement water supply wells.  With support from the state agency, U.S. EPA operated this blocking well system until operation was taken over by private parties in June 1996.  

In 1987, to address a Thomas Solvent facility, U.S. EPA constructed a soil vapor extraction system to clean up soils, and a groundwater pump-and-treat system to clean up the groundwater. U.S. EPA operated the soil vapor extraction system from 1988 until 1993 and removed an estimated 50,000 pounds of VOCs from the soil. The groundwater pump-and-treat system, which is still operating, has removed an estimated 21,000 pounds of VOCs and reduced the maximum VOC concentration from 85,960 to less than 200 micrograms/liter.  Free product from spillage on an adjacent facility is complicating and increasing costs for the groundwater cleanup.  As a result of soil sampling by the State of Michigan in 2005 using improved sampling techniques, it was found that significant contamination by volatile organic compounds remained in soils at the source area.  Although the soil and groundwater contamination is much reduced, much of it remained near the water table, and it is believed will take a long time to remove using pump-and-treat.  Because of this and because air sparging has been successful in the other two source areas under VWFG operation, in 2008 EPA decided to fund further soil vapor extraction treatment supplemented by air sparging to attempt to achieve soil and groundwater cleanup action levels sooner.  The State completed construction and initiated operation of this system in July 2010.  At this time, groundwater at TSRR is approaching clenaup action levels.     

In 1993, the VWFG constructed a soil vapor extraction system at the other Thomas Solvent source area, and Grand Trunk constructed a soil vapor extraction system at their source area. These systems operated from June 1993 to June 1994 and removed an 7,000 pounds of volatile organic compounds.  From September - December 1996, the VWFG and Grand Trunk constructed the following: a second line (southern line) of blocking wells; upgrades to the old (northern) blocking wells; and pump-and treat systems at two source areas.  Later additional pumping wells were installed to assure groundwater containment at the source areas.  Between June 1996 and January 2010, the blocking well and two source area pump-and-treat system removed an estimated 2,400 pounds of VOCs from the groundwater.  In August 2009, with U.S. EPA and State approval, the VWFG shut-down three of the northern blocking wells because cleanup objectives had been achieved.  In December 2009, the VWFG requested shut-down of the remaining northern blocking wells (this would leave the southern blocking wells in operation to prevent source area contamination from affecting City of Battle Creek water supply wells) and proposed revised procedures for final soil sampling at one source area, and in April 2010 shut down of pumping wells at Thomas Solvent source area.  These proposals are still under review by the State and EPA.         

The MRC has conducted some actions beyond EPA's requirements in response to State and City of Battle Creek concerns, including: installing higher capacity pumps and, in June 2004, starting operation of the blocking well system at increased the pumping rates in order to reduce the potential for contamination reaching the City water supply; and construction and starting operation of air sparge systems at the two source areas to increase the rate of groundwater cleanup.  The air sparging has clearly resulted in reduced volatile organic compounds in groundwater, and volatile organic compound concentrations are approaching cleanup objectives.  The VWFG shut-down the air sparging system at the Thomas Solvent source area in December 2010. 

For the first time in August 2011, the groundwater sampling included 1,4-dioxane.  1,4-dioxane was not detected in the wellfield area, but was detected at below 1 ug/l in the TSRR and Annex source areas and in and near the southern blocking wells.      


Success Story

There are two sucess stories for this site.  One is an old story - that in 1983 and 1984, U.S. EPA took quick action to protect public health by providing an alternative water supply for residents with a contaminated private well, and by protecting the city of Battle Creek's water supply by converting 12 of the southern water supply wells into a blocking well system.  By operating the blocking well system and installing replacement water supply wells, volatile organic compounds were reduced to low levels in water supply wells north of the blocking wells within a few months.  Operating the blocking well system provided continuing protection to the city water supply at a relatively low cost while the time consuming process of sampling groundwater to determine the extent of contamination, of evaluating cleanup methods for soil and groundwater, of negotiating with private parties, and of design and construction of source area cleanups and an improved blocking well system was completed.  

The second success story is the results of the collaborative effort among the private parties, U.S. EPA, the State, and the City of Battle Creek.  Periodic meetings among these parties started in the fall of 1997, and are continuing at least annually.  The VWFG should be credited with being willing to meet and work with the government agencies to satisfy their concerns instead of taking an adversarial approach, which may have led to litigation.  These efforts resulted in an informal agreement in principal among the parties in September 2000.  In the agreement with the State and City, the private parties agreed to increase blocking well pumping rates enough to protect the city water supply in case of increased water demand in the future, and to assure that there is no detection of volatile organic compounds in the city water supply that could be from the source areas.  Construction for the increased pumping was completed in 2003 - 2004.  In addition, in the State agreement, the VWFG agreed to conduct air sparging at two source areas in an attempt to accelerate removal of volatile organic compounds from the groundwater.  Because the air sparging appears to be successful, the VWFG are continuing operation of the air sparge systems beyond State requirements.  U.S. EPA and the State have decided to perform further soil vapor extraction supplemented by air sparging at the other source area.           


Community Involvement

U.S. EPA and the private parties have been working closely with the State agency and the City of Battle Creek, to improve the effectiveness and monitoring for the blocking well system, and source area cleanups.  The City routinely participates in review of documents relative to their interests.  Public notices have been provided in a local newspaper for the following documents:  The September 2003 Explanation of Significant Differences; the September 2007 Five-Year Review; and the September 2008 Explanation of Significant Differences.  No public comments were received.       

Congressional Interest

In May 2002, U.S. EPA recieved correspondence from Senator Carl Levin.  This letter supported the City of Battle Creek's desire to assure: that the blocking well system protects the city water supply in the future; that the system is properly monitored, and that the pace of the source areas cleanup is increased.   

Property Reuse

The two Thomas Solvent source areas are now vacant, and the Grand Trunk source area is being used for maintenance of railroad equipment.  Usage of the two source areas being cleaned up by VWFG and Grand Trunk is restricted by a deed notice.  The Thomas Solvent source area being cleanup up by U.S. EPA and State actions is under State ownership.  Considering their locations (two adjacent to railroads, and one at a busy road intersection), future residential development appears to be unlikely, but the properties should be safe for unlimited access and unlimited use if the soil and groundwater cleanup requirements are achieved.  Usage of the properties and contaminated groundwater is restricted by City, Township, and County ordinances, and zoning restrictions (all of the properties are zoned for industrial usage).  Nearby property owners were notified that U.S. EPA would have concerns if the properties are used for residential purposes.  The need for additional proprietary controls will be considered after review of the final ground water and soil data.   



Remedial Project Manager, U.S. EPA
lolita hill (hill.lolita@epa.gov)
(312) 353-1621

Community Involvement Coordinator, U.S. EPA
teresa jones
(312) 886-0725




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