By Jeff Harrison
Midwest City Beacon
An official with the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality last week gave local residents an update on continued efforts to clean up a polluted former industrial property in Midwest City.
Steven Gunnels, project manager for the DEQ Superfund Program, led an informational meeting Nov. 10 at the Nick Harroz Midwest City Community Center to discuss the Eagle Industries, 10901 SE 29th Street.
The DEQ holds annual informational meetings about the site. This was the first in-person event in a couple of years due to the pandemic. They will hold additional meetings in the future.
The Eagle Industries property was added to the EPA’s Superfund National Priorities List after illegal dumping caused groundwater and soil contamination. The groundwater and soil is contaminated with trichloroethylene or TCE, a common industrial solvent used to clean airplane parts.
Gunnels said they are still in the early stages of the lengthy Superfund Process. They are currently working on the remedial investigation. The step involved collecting environmental samples from the site to determine the extent of contamination.
Crews have drilled several groundwater monitoring wells at Eagle Industries and surrounding area. The data will help DEQ understand the vertical and horizontal extent of the contamination in the groundwater.
“We’re trying to get a 3D picture of everything underneath the ground by drilling wells,” he said. “We have little snap shots and try to make a complete picture out of all of it.”
At the Eagle Industries site, crews drilled 28 soil borings and eight pre-existing groundwater wells. They later drilled and sampled 11 new groundwater wells onsite. Crews also tested for vapor intrusion under the concrete slab of the buildings onsite.
More offsite groundwater wells were added to understand the extent of the TCE contamination south and southwest of the Eagle Industries properties. A total of 12 new groundwater wells were drilled and sampled offsite.
There are a total of 41 groundwater monitoring wells for the project.
Current groundwater data from the monitoring wells show high levels of TCE on the Eagle Industries property and south of the property. TCE is measured in micrograms per liter (ug/L). Any levels above 5 ug/L are considered unacceptable. Samples onsite show levels from less than 0.4 – 136 ug/L, and samples on the surrounding properties range from less than 0.4 – 415 ug/L.
That data suggests groundwater is moving to the south to southeast in the mid-level aquifer. Data from the shallow aquifer shows groundwater moving in a southerly to southwesterly direction. They do not have enough data to determine the flow for the deep wells.
“We were surprised that we’re dealing with two different groundwater flows and drilling more wells will help us understand those different groundwater flows and its influence on the size of the plume,” said Kelsey Bufford, Superfund program manager for DEQ.
The next step is to drill more groundwater wells to further define the size of the TCE plume. That will begin next year.
“We would like to drill more groundwater monitoring wells so we have the boundaries of the plume,” Bufford said.
After the DEQ completes the remedial investigation, they will conduct a feasibility study for the cleanup. Officials did not have a timeline for the cleanup project.
Eagle Industries inspected and repaired aircraft oxygen and fire extinguishers for third party customers beginning in the 1990s. In 2003, a DEQ site inspection found improper handling practices of the chemical TCE. The chemical was found in soil and ground water on the site.
Trichloroethylene is toxic and may increase chances of causing cancer if exposed through drinking, breathing or touching, according to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. It also breaks down very slowly in soil and water.
Eagle Industries entered into a legal consent order with DEQ to address environmental concerns and performed some work to clean up the site. In 2009, DEQ determined that the facility had a limited ability to pay for any additional environmental cleanup work at the site.
The DEQ and EPA have performed several preliminary investigations of the site to collect soil and groundwater data. Based on those findings, the EPA added the site to the Superfund National Priorities List on Jan. 18, 2018.
The business is no longer in operation, but a person lives on the property, DEQ officials said.
“As long as the resident doesn’t interfere with the investigation then we have no control over the resident that lives there,” Bufford said.
Superfund is the federal government’s program to clean up the nation’s uncontrolled hazardous waste sites. Cleaning up Superfund sites is a multi-phase process.
The DEQ offers free testing of water wells within a ½ mile radius of Eagles Industries. Public water is not impacted by the Eagle Industries property.
For more information, visit the DEQ’s Eagle Industries website: https://go.usa.gov/xVE2W