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Release Date: 12/22/1997
Contact Information: Peyton Fleming, Press Office (617) 918-1008

BOSTON -- The City of Saco today completed construction of an impermeable cap at the Saco Municipal Landfill Superfund Site under the oversight of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

The project, completed in 6 months, is the result of close cooperation among the agencies and the city. Completion of the cap means that all of the municipal and industrial waste at the 90-acre site has been contained and any potential for contact with the hazardous chemicals by local residents has been eliminated. The five-foot-thick cap will reduce the amount of water that drains into the landfill waste material, thus reducing the volume of contaminants transported to the groundwater that discharges into Sandy Brook. "Saco's diligence and close work with the EPA and DEP has resulted in a significant milestone," said John P. DeVillars, administrator for the EPA's New England office. "Local residents can now look forward to a cleaner Sandy Brook, greater protection of groundwater, and, hopefully in the near future, a place to educate Saco's school children about the environment."

As part of the landfill cleanup, the city is planning to restore wetlands destroyed as a result of cap construction activities. The restored area will eliminate the possibility of future development of the wetland. The city is also hoping to use a portion of the area for its school programs in environmental education, biology and other natural sciences.

The city is also working with EPA, DEP, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to explore the possibility of implementing a more comprehensive environmental restoration program for the sand and gravel pit adjacent to the landfill.

The city will perform regular inspections of the completed cap and will maintain the landfill to ensure its long-term effectiveness. The majority of the cap's maintenance will involve erosion repairs and mowing.

In completing the cap project within the calendar year, the city was able to capture $1 Million in State reimbursement funds this year, rather than from future bonds.

"Speaking for the residents of Saco, we are thrilled that the City's decision in 1995 to take a leadership role has resulted in a cooperative effort to close our landfill. This cooperation between the City, EPA and DEP has allowed all parties to finish in record time and significantly under the original cost estimates. While we experienced some setbacks during construction, the trust and good will that was previously established between the City and the agencies, along with a "can-do" attitude from H.E. Sargent, allowed us to work through the problems and finish the cap this year, ensuring the City reimbursement funds from DEP this fiscal year," said Saco Mayor Bill Johnson.

The general contractor for the cap construction, H.E. Sargent, began work in June 1997. A total of 9,000 truck loads of clay, sand, geomembrane material, topsoil, geotextile fabric, and other materials were transported to the landfill during construction.

"This cleanup was more like a successful public works project than a Superfund negotiation," said DEP Commissioner Ned Sullivan. "Partnering to design and complete the project enabled us to move expeditiously. It shows what positive energy aimed at eliminating significant environmental threat can do. It's a great model!"

The next steps that EPA and DEP must take to finish this Superfund project include completion of a groundwater study, a human health risk assessment, and an ecological risk assessment. The agencies and the city of Saco are working together to finish site cleanup within the next 12 months.

Located in southeastern Maine, the 90-acre landfill is inactive and consists of four waste disposal areas that occupy approximately 26 acres. The city operated the landfill from 1963 to1988 accepting solid, commercial and industrial wastes. Following reports of surface water and groundwater contamination originating from landfill Area 1, the State of Maine began investigating the site in 1974. In February 1976, DEP ordered the city of Saco to abate leachate migration from Area 1.

Additionally, in 1981, the state required the city to submit a closure plan for the entire landfill. Pursuant to this order, the city installed a leachate collection system and covered Area 1 with a clay cap. The city also installed a leachate recirculation system in Area 2 and covered this area with a clay cap.

In a separate action from 1985 to 1991, the city allowed temporary storage of solid waste from Nike Inc. in Area 3. This waste was subsequently transported off site for incineration. Area 4 of the landfill was graded and covered with a thin layer of soil.

For the past several years, the city of Saco and its contractors, the EPA, DEP and the U.S. Geological Survey have performed numerous studies aimed at determining the nature and extent of groundwater and soil contamination at the site.