Coal tar ignites debate in Sandusky

SANDUSKY The coal tar plume is proving to be a sticky issue. The Brownfields Committe
May 24, 2010



The coal tar plume is proving to be a sticky issue.

The Brownfields Committee was supposed to decide Tuesday how to get more information about the plume.

It hosted a meeting to discuss drilling into the bedrock, as well as several other options.

But many of the 20 people who attended the meeting wanted to continue debating whether more investigation was even a good idea. Consequently, the committee didn’t decide on its next course of action.

Toward the end of the meeting, Ruth Haag, one of the city’s local brownfields consultants, said the debate was irrelevant.

“Whether you like it or not, we’ve already decided we’re going

forward with this,” she said. “The city commission already voted on it last month.”

Ruth and Bob Haag, the city’s other local brownfields consultant, said they will meet Friday with the city’s environmental consultant, Dan Brown, to discuss the next step.

Brown is the president of Environmental Partners, the company that drew up the original plan to remediate the plume.

On Tuesday, Brown admitted his plan was “faulty” in terms of cleaning up the shoreline.

“We didn’t make that design in a vacuum,” he said. “We were working with a development. We had to comply with a grant. We had to make it economically work. ... If someone had come to us without a development plan and $40 million and asked us just to clean up the shoreline, I might have told you something completely different.”

Brown and Environmental Partners designed the plan in 2006, when Mid-States Development wanted to build on the Gradel property.

He said his company’s research was “exhaustive” and good enough for the Environmental Protection Agency to approve it. But he said he couldn’t conclusively say it would solve the coal tar problem.

“That’s what we’ve been trying to tell this committee,” Bob Haag said. “Something that’s completely legally successful and approved isn’t always something the city wants to do.”

Under the city’s current remediation plan, the city would build a wall down to the bedrock to block the coal tar plume from advancing toward the water.

But based on a number of factors, the Haags believe the coal tar might be in the bedrock, and consequently it would just go under the wall.

The Haags have suggested drilling on city property to get samples from the bedrock. The city has grant money for further assessment, which would include drilling. The Haags said they will discuss that option with Brown on Friday.

Karla Aucker, who works for the U.S. EPA, said the city needs to do more research.

“Personally, I don’t think it’s in the bedrock, but let’s just put in a couple of wells and put this issue to bed,” she said.