Whirlpool released test results from soil samples taken from Whirlpool Park, providing some possible good news for residents living nearby but also sparking immediate controversy over what the test results mean.
The report and accompanying U.S. EPA document report finding PCBs at the site but not any other substances that violate EPA safety standards. No sampling showed PCBs in the groundwater or suggested they have migrated off the site.
Whirlpool has agreed to clean up the site. EPA officials told Whirlpool the agency concurs with the company’s findings, but PCBs on the site will need to be dealt with in accordance with EPA regulations.
Fremont attorney Tom Bowlus, who represents current property owner Jonathan Abdoo, accused Whirlpool of breaking a written agreement to let Bowlus’ own environmental expert review the results before a report was sent to the EPA.
Bowlus also disputed Whirlpool’s claims that the results showed no safety hazard on the property and showed that no illegal dumping of hazardous waste took place on the property.
Bowlus noted that Whirlpool’s own report says PCBs were found in some areas that are above EPA’s safety standards. PCBs are a carcinogen, Bowlus noted.
And while Whirlpool’s report downplays the material at the site as “fill material,” Bowlus said, “I don’t know of any legal way they could have gotten there.”
Bowlus said, however, that he agrees with Whirlpool’s statement that no PCBs were found in ground water sampling at the site.
“I don’t think anything has been shown that any of the PCBs went offsite,” Bowlus said.
Whirlpool hailed the results as a vindication of its management of the former park, operated for the benefit of employees and their families and later closed down and sold.
“Whirlpool’s consultant obtained a total of 328 groundwater, surface water, soil, sediment and pool filter samples and tested for 232 chemical compounds,” the executive summary for the Whirlpool report says. “The testing found no health risk and no evidence of hazardous illegal dumping.”
As for the PCBs found on the site, said Whirlpool spokesman Jeff Noel, “it’s not uncommon to find these items in what is clearly fill material, fill dirt.”
The Whirlpool report and related documents are posted at whirlpoolforclyde.com .
An EPA letter posted by Whirlpool says PCBs were the only substance found on the site violating EPA standards and the study apparently was carried out according to the EPA’s directions.
Bowlus clarified, however, that Whirlpool and the Abdoos have discussed cleaning up the site according to Ohio’s Voluntary Action Program. If that’s done, heavy metals such as chromium, barium and lead that violate VAP standards will need to be removed, he said.
While Bowlus said he was “very upset” Whirlpool broke an agreement to share the results before releasing them, he said Whirlpool has agreed to address many of his concerns, including additional sediment sampling and an ecological risk assessment.
Families in the Clyde area affected by cancer cases have filed a federal lawsuit against Whirlpool alleging Whirlpool was responsible for the illnesses. Whirlpool has filed a motion asking for the lawsuit to be dismissed.
Alan Mortensen, a Utah attorney representing the victims’ families, said studying the Whirlpool report carefully will take some time.
“The Whirlpool report is currently being studied by the attorneys and experts of the cancer victims in the Clyde Childhood Cancer Cluster, and any conclusions are preliminary,” he said.
“Given the tone of the executive summary, the victims believe that Whirlpool would have no issues with an independent confirmation at the Whirlpool Park by the victims’ team of experts,” he said.
Mortensen said the Whirlpool report revealed the presence of a number of cancer-causing agents.