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Hazardous Waste Cleanup: Occidental Chemical Company Facility - Montague, Michigan

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Congress amended the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) in November 1984, expanding the Act's cleanup provisions and prompting EPA and its state partners to develop the RCRA Corrective Action Program. The program oversees the investigation and cleanup of nearly 4,000 hazardous waste sites across the country, including many with risks comparable to Superfund sites.

Hooker Chemical Corp. operated a chemical plant in Montague, Mich., from 1952 until 1983, after which Occidental Chemical Corp. (OCC) was the facility operator. Hazardous waste was produced, treated, and disposed of at the site. Chemical production ceased in 1982. In 1993, OCC signed an Administrative Order which legally bound the company to investigate the nature and extent of hazardous waste releases to the environment, determine what measures to take to address releases, and implement corrective measures. A Final Decision and Response to Comments was issued by EPA in 2001 and contained the remedy to clean up contaminated soil, sediment, and groundwater. Remediation was performed and completed by 2005. However, in evaluating on-site collection and treatment options for contaminants in source areas and groundwater, a feasible solution was not found. In 2010, an Amended Final Decision and Response to Comments was issued by EPA to fully address the remaining contaminants. Among other terms, the final remedy requires groundwater and waste disposal vault monitoring.

    Cleanup Status

    In the course of chemical production at the plant, about 506,000 cubic yards of organic waste was disposed of in unlined settling ponds over approximately 50 acres of the site. The waste contaminated ground and surface water both on and off the site. Groundwater discharges into White Lake and sediment in the lake were also contaminated.

    Remedial efforts started in 1981-1982. The bulk of contaminated surface soil was placed on-site in a lined landfill, which is maintained through a RCRA post-closure long-term management plan. The 10-acre landfill contains approximately 970,000 tons of contaminated soil.

    Isolated areas of contaminated surface soil were removed and disposed of off-site, and contaminated sediment was dredged, dewatered, and disposed off-site pursuant to the 2001 RCRA corrective action Final Decision and Response to Comments.

    A contaminated 2-acre equalization pond was drained, decontaminated using pressure washing and vacuuming, re-lined with a synthetic plastic liner covered with clay, and allowed to refill with rainwater.

    Remediation also included excavation of contaminated soil, dredging of contaminated sediment, and pumping and treating contaminated groundwater.

    A collection and treatment system currently operates to contain a contaminated underground plume of groundwater to be protective of human health and the environment. The water treatment facility has been in continuous operation since 1982 and pumps approximately 1 million gallons per day. Treated groundwater is discharged under a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit to White Lake.          

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      Site Description

      The site is located in Montague, Mich. There are deep salt formations below the property, and when the chemical plant was in operation, brine was mined on-site and used in the production of certain chemicals. Chemicals produced at the plant included gaseous chlorine, sodium hydroxide, and hydrogen gas. Chemical production operations ceased in 1982, and by 1996 the plant was demolished with the exception of one storage building. There are no plans to reactivate manufacturing operations.

      White Lake is immediately to the south and southwest of the site. White Lake is approximately 4 miles long and empties directly into Lake Michigan via a narrow channel at the west end of the lake. Groundwater from the site discharges into White Lake. There is a groundwater collection system currently in place that halts any unacceptable discharge of chlorinated organic compounds into White Lake.

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      Contaminants at this Facility

      Some of the hazardous waste or hazardous constituents identified in soil and groundwater at the site and White Lake have been identified as hexachlorocyclopentadiene, hexachlorobenzene, hexachlorobutadiene, perchlorethylene, octochlorocyclopentene, trichloroethylene, tetrachloroethylene, polychlorinated biphenyls, chloroform, carbon tetrachloride, and dioxins and furans.

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      Institutional and Engineering Controls at this Facility

      A Declaration of Restrictive Covenant was executed by Muskegon County in 2010, restricting land use at the containment vault, in areas where soil is affected, and at the property over the groundwater plume. 

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      Land Reuse Information at this Facility

      The remedy disturbed much of the soil on more than a hundred acres of the site. Much of this area has been transformed into vegetation and wildlife habitat through a voluntary site eco-restoration program.

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      Site Responsiblity at this Facility

      Glenn Springs Holdings Inc. is currently implementing corrective measures at the site.  

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