By Jeff Harrison
Midwest City Beacon
Environmental experts plan to increase sampling of groundwater near a polluted former industrial property in Midwest City.
Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality officials say they’re having a difficult time understanding how the contamination is impacting local groundwater near the former Eagle Industries, 10901 SE 29th St.
“We’re noticing more and more that the area is much more complicated than anticipated and we want to make the best choice how to remediate the problem out here,” said Kelsey Bufford, Superfund program manager.
Eagle Industries inspected and repaired aircraft oxygen and fire extinguisher systems from 1990 through the 2010s. Illegal dumping of trichloroethylene or TCE, a common industrial solvent, caused contamination of groundwater and soil.
Trichloroethylene is toxic and may increase the 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.
The EPA named Eagle Industries a Superfund site and initiated a federal cleanup program.
DEQ officials updated residents on those efforts last week during an informational meeting at Sooner East Church of Christ. The DEQ holds annual informational meetings about the site.
Steve Gunnels, project manager for the DEQ Superfund Program said they are still in the early stages of the lengthy Superfund process. They are currently working on the remedial investigation. The step includes collecting environmental samples from the site to determine the extent of contamination.
“This is the largest part of the process and we need to determine where to drill the wells, we collect the data and keep looking at all of this,” Gunnels said.
Crews have been sampling the groundwater and soil on and around the property to determine the extent of the contamination, both vertical and horizontal. There are a total of 40 groundwater monitoring wells for the project.
“Some people have allowed us access to drill monitoring wells in addition we test groundwater drinking wells out of your home to make sure the water in your home is safe to drink,” Gunnels said.
Gunnels said the groundwater plume is moving in a southerly direction from the Eagle Industries property.
The highest levels of contamination has been found in the mid-level wells, known as the B horizon, which are located at a depth of 70-100 feet below ground. Most residential water wells in the area are about 120 feet deep.
The specifics of the path and contamination are difficult to track, Bufford said.
“The way the groundwater plume is moving is complicated,” Bufford said. “We will sample several wells and get values at the time and come back three months later and they change.”
The EPA and DEQ along with Terracon, a contractor hired to assist in testing, had a “meeting of the minds” to better understand the contamination. They believe the answer is to increase the amount of groundwater sampling.
“We already have 40 wells and that’s quite a bit in a condensed area,” Bufford said. “We determined that we need to get out and sample the wells more. Whenever we do a sampling event, it’s a snapshot of one moment in time. We need to know what it’s doing over time.”
Bufford said they plan to take water samples on a quarterly basis. They had been collecting samples from residential wells two times a year. She said they do not have a timetable for the process.
“These processes can take a long time depending on how complicated things are and out here the aquifer is very complicated,” she said. “We want to make sure that we take the time that we need to correctly characterize the TCE so we make the best decisions on how to remediate the area.”
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. 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 in 2018 and selected it as a Superfund site in 2019.
The business is no longer in operation.
The DEQ offers free testing of water wells within a ½ mile radius of Eagles Industries. Municipal water is not impacted by the Eagle Industries property.
For more information, visit the DEQ’s Eagle Industries website: https://go.usa.gov/xVE2W