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Release Date: 10/10/1996
Contact Information: Frank Gardner, EPA On Scene Coordinator, (617) 573-5722 Diane Duva, Connecticut DEP, (860) 424-3271 Dr. Dada Jabbour, Waterbury Health Department, (203) 574-6998 Sarah White, EPA Community Relations Coordinator, (617) 918-1026

BOSTON -- The Environmental Protection Agency's Response Team will begin sampling contaminated soil today and prepare to remove 15 to 20 drums of solvents and other chemicals from a former metal finishing operation on South Main Street in Waterbury.

Depending on the nature and extent of residual pollution found during the initial removal, the EPA will then determine whether it will cap or excavate contaminated soils from the Harper Leader Site. Soil at the site is contaminated with a number of hazardous contaminants, including solvents and metals that could pose a public health threat to people entering the property.

"The people of Waterbury have been put at risk by contamination from the Harper Leader site for too long," said John P. DeVillars, Administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency's New England Office. "Those that live and work near this site can rest assured that EPA will remove the toxic threat this site poses quickly and efficiently."

"The work beginning today to remediate the contamination on this site directly addresses immediate human health and environmental concerns," said Sidney J. Holbrook, commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection. "We will continue to work very closely with the EPA on this cleanup and, as we move ahead with this process, prepare the site for future development and revitalization of the area."

"We are pleased to see the Superfund Program implemented in our City," said Dr. Dada N. Jabbour, Director of Hazardous Materials for the Waterbury Health Department. "EPA funding for the cleanup of the abandoned hazardous substances at Harper Leader will help minimize the health and environmental risks that exist in the South End Area and will contribute to the overall revitalization of the whole region."

Prior to the company's closing in 1988, the CT DEP conducted numerous site inspections that documented violations in the owner's management of hazardous waste. Following a series of unsuccessful attempts to get the owners to clean up the site, the CT DEP referred the site to the EPA for further action.

The EPA's initial involvement and evaluation of the site began in 1995, when investigations revealed copper in the soil at concentrations that could pose a health threat to children who came in contact with the soil. Lower levels of other hazardous substances including lead, nickel, tin and zinc were also found.

In addition, the EPA found drums of flammable solvents in an abandoned building on site. Since the building is unheated, the drums are exposed to extreme weather conditions that increase the chances of them breaking open or spilling. These factors could pose a significant health risk to trespassers.

During the cleanup, the EPA will take the following measures to minimize risk to public health:

    • Wetting down soils to minimize the spread of contaminated dust through the air;
    • Repackaging the drums and moving them to an off site disposal facility;
    • Covering contaminated soils; and,
    • Installing a temporary security fence on site to prevent unauthorized access.
The cost of the soil sampling, capping, excavation and drum removal is estimated to be $693,000.

The first step in the cleanup will be to survey the extent of contamination in the soil.

The Waterbury Fire and Health Departments have been notified of the removal. The CT DEP will provide technical assistance to the EPA during the removal process.

The Harper Leader Site, located at 1046 South Main Street, consists of a two-acre property that includes a 30,000 square- foot abandoned brick building and a former metal hydroxide settling lagoon. From 1953 to 1988 Harper Leader electroplated copper, lead, nickel, tin, and other metals at the site.

To review technical information on the Harper Leader cleanup, a public information repository is available at the Silas Bronson Public Library on 267 Grand Street.