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EPA Reaches Settlement on Groundwater Cleanup at the Davis Liquid Waste Superfund Site in Smithfield R.I.

Release Date: 12/29/2011
Contact Information: David Deegan, (617) 918-1017

(Boston, Mass. – December 29, 2011) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has reached a settlement with respect to the Davis Liquid Waste Superfund Site in Smithfield, R.I. Pursuant to the settlement, the Settling Defendants will implement the groundwater cleanup at the Site.  They also will be financially responsible for 100 percent of future response costs, including oversight costs. The settlement agreement was signed by multiple Settling Defendants, the EPA, the State of Rhode Island and the United States Department of Justice.

“This settlement is good news for the citizens of Smithfield because now cleanup efforts will be able to proceed apace,” said Curt Spalding, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office.  “EPA is very pleased that all the parties were able to reach a positive settlement for the site, for local residents and for a cleaner environment.”

 “The settlement announced today allows the state to finally move forward with a plan and much needed funding to remediate the environmental damage caused by years of dumping hazardous chemical wastes at the Davis site,” said Rhode Island Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin.  “This clean-up is on top of the successful action the Office of Attorney General and DEM already took to get the millions of tires removed.  The residents in the vicinity of the site can breathe easier knowing a remedy to the problem that plagued them for many years is in sight. I commend the EPA and the state Department of Environmental Management for working with our office on a settlement that brings a resolution to a serious environmental problem and demands action from those responsible.”

“The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management is pleased to begin the groundwater phase of the cleanup at the Davis Liquid Site. This site has presented real and potential threats to the citizens of Rhode Island for too long. Its clean up has been complex and time consuming, and included the installation of the Davis Waterline, the treatment of almost 30,000 yards of contaminated soil, the removal of buried hazardous waste drums and the removal of over six million discarded tires. We look forward to participating in this final step of the process by treating the contaminated groundwater that remains on the site. This agreement further emphasizes that the Department is going to work diligently to hold parties responsible for their acts, to ensure protective cleanups that safeguard our natural resources and protect environmental quality for all Rhode Islanders,” said Janet Coit, Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management Director.

In 1992, the Office of Attorney General on behalf of the state initiated a suit against William Davis requiring the removal of millions of tires that had been disposed at the site as far back as the 1970s.  Although the last of the tires were removed in 2000, the Office of Attorney General remains committed to the remediation of the environmental hazards that existed on the site as a result of decades of solid and hazardous waste storage.

The Settling Defendants include: Ashland Inc.; the Black and Decker Corporation; FKI Industries, Inc. f/k/a Acco-Bristol Division of Babcock Industries, Inc.; Bristol, Inc.; Morton International, LLC; Rohm and Haas Company; and Life Technologies Corporation.

Under this Consent Decree, the Settling Defendants agree to perform the groundwater remedial design/remedial action at the Site for "Operable Unit 2," and will pay all future response costs including oversight costs.  

EPA will contribute up to $9.5 million of Special Account funds to the groundwater cleanup. The money in the Special Account is made up of payments made by previous settling parties, set aside specifically for use at the Site.

The major contaminants of concern in the overburden and bedrock groundwater that exceed federal and state standards are: volatile organic compounds (VOCs), such as tetrachlorethene, trichloroethene, vinyl chloride and benzene; semi-volatile organic compounds (SVOCs), including bis (2-chloroethyl)ether; pesticides, such as aldrin and dieldrin; and metals, including arsenic and maganese. 

Exposure risks to residents from contaminated groundwater have been minimized since homes in the area are now on public water.   

In 2010, EPA signed a Record of Decision (ROD) Amendment to the cleanup remedy for the Site.  This remedy decision called for: 

    • Performing pre-design investigations to gather additional information to support the design of the remedy.
    • Injecting a treatment reagent into the plume core to chemically and biologically degrade contaminants in the overburden aquifer.
    • Injecting reagent into the bedrock in the former source area to address the most contaminated part of the bedrock plume.
    • Implementing institutional controls to prevent future use of the groundwater.
    • Performing long-term monitoring and five-year reviews to ensure the remedy is protective of human health and the environment.
Pursuant to the settlement, work on the remedy design can commence. The design process is expected to take approximately a year and a half, including investigations to support the design.  Construction at the Site is expected to begin in 2013. Residents may notice a slight increase in truck traffic during construction, but overall EPA does not expect the cleanup to have significant impacts to the local community.

The Davis Liquid Waste Superfund Site is located on approximately 10 acres in a rural section of Smithfield, Rhode Island. Throughout the 1970s, the Site accepted liquid and chemical wastes, such as paint and metal sludges, oily wastes, solvents, acids, caustics, pesticides, phenols, halogens, metals, fly ash, and laboratory pharmaceuticals. Liquid wastes were transported in drums and bulk tank trucks, and were dumped directly into unlined lagoons and seepage pits. The operator periodically excavated the semi-solid lagoon materials, dumped these materials at several locations on the Site, and covered them with soil. Other operations included the collection of salvaged vehicles and machine parts, metal recycling, and tire shredding. During the mid-1970s, local officials received complaints from nearby residents about chemical odors in their private water supply.  The drinking water wells were found to have been contaminated by a variety of chemicals.  In 1983, EPA added the Site to the Superfund National Priorities List. The Amendment to the ROD, along with other reports, are available for public review at the Davis Liquid Waste Superfund Site repository located at the Greenville Public Library at 573 Putnam Pike in Smithfield, RI and at the EPA Records Center in Boston.

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