The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Alabama Department of Environmental Management, along with the Talladega County and Alabama Emergency Management agencies and others, were at the site since last Tuesday to address a large bubble of gas trapped under a tarp covering a wastewater basin, as well as oily leakage flowing into Shirtee Creek.
ADEM spokesman Scott Hughes said there was “tremendous progress” in mitigating the problems over the weekend.
“The air scrubber has been effective at removing the large gas bubble underneath the tarp, and lime has been added to the wastewater in the basins to adjust the pH and reduce the buildup of additional gases/vapors,” Hughes said. “We will now work to transition into a long-term solution to remove the materials in the wastewater basins.”
The groups installed an air scrubber system to treat and safely release the trapped gas Friday. A network of absorbent booms was also placed in and around Shirtee Creek to stop the flow of oily leakage coming from one of the wastewater basins.
ADEM advised that odor from the waste, which has been a complaint of citizens since REEF located in Sylacauga in 2007, would intensify as they worked. To ensure chemical levels in the air remained safe, ADEM and the EPA set up ambient air monitoring on site and at seven locations throughout adjacent neighborhoods. No elevated concentrations were identified during the process.
From here, the EPA and ADEM will develop a cleanup plan for the 13 million gallons of wastewater that remain at the facility. About 6 million gallons of the remaining waste is hazardous, while 7 million gallons is partially-treated, non-hazardous wastewater.
Deborah Gaither, director of the Talladega County Emergency Management Agency said local agencies should have more information as soon as today as to when relief efforts may begin. A call to the EPA for confirmation was not returned Monday.
“Everybody has to get their information together, and they are supposed to meet with city officials and other departments, all those who may be affected at some point during the cleanup, to come up with a plan,” Gaither said.
She said it will likely take time, but everyone is partnering to resolve the issues at the facility.
“It didn’t happen in a day, so it won’t be cleaned up in a week,” she said. “Also, it doesn’t mean nobody is working on it just because they’re not at the site.”
After seeking a local solution to cleanup, ADEM requested federal resources last week to help resolve the ongoing problems at REEF, which operated as an industrial waste treatment plant until late 2010.
ADEM has cited REEF for multiple violations since its closing and is currently involved in legal action against the company, which is in Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
For updates on REEF from the EPA, visit www.epaosc.org and find REEF in the “Recent Updates” box on the right-hand side of the page.
Contact Emily Adams at firstname.lastname@example.org.