First Selectman Mike Tetreau and Conservation Director Brian Carey announced today that the Town of Fairfield was notified by the Exide Corporation and the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (CTDEEP) that the presence of Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) were detected in select dredge sediment samples that were collected from the currently stockpiled dredge materials that are located on the former Exide site at 2190 Post Road, Fairfield, Connecticut.
The presence of PCBs in the stockpiled dredge spoils has triggered a mandatory review by CTDEEP and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the framework of the Toxic Substances and Control Act. The CTDEEP and EPA will review the new sampling data and will require additional authorizations prior to transporting the material for final disposal at a certified landfill facility.
The Exide Corporation is currently waiting on a formal response from the regulatory agencies so it can continue to proceed with the removal of the dredge sediments. There is no risk to the public presented at this time due to the discovery of PCBs within the existing dredge sediments. Site controls that have been implemented since the start of the project are very conservative in nature and would abate any potential impact to human health or the environment caused by the presence of PCBs or any other in-organic materials (i.e. Lead, Chromium) present in the riverbed sediments.
The CTDEEP and EPA will be issuing a decision regarding the regulatory steps required to move forward to ensure that the removal of the dredge materials are consistent with all the required Federal and State regulations and that the community’s health is protected.
In order to address any concerns the public may have regarding the detection of PCBs in the dredge materials, the Town of Fairfield is issuing the following response to clarify any questions that have been or may be asked by the community.
PCBs FACT SHEET:
1. What are PCBs?
PCBs are mixtures of synthetic organic chemicals that were widely used as dielectric and coolant fluids in electrical apparatus, cutting fluids for machining operations, carbonless copy paper and in heat transfer fluids from approximately 1929 until 1979. The U.S. banned PCB manufacturing, processing, distribution, and use in 1979 based upon their environmental toxicity and their ability to readily bio-accumulate in the environment. The U.S. was responsible for approximately half of the world’s production of PCBs and imported approximately 50% of the remainder produced by other countries (minus exports). There are no natural sources of PCBs. Although their current commercial use is restricted in the U.S., they continue to be a common environmental contaminant because they are extremely stable and do not readily attenuate in the environment.
2. How do PCBs enter the environment?
Prior to the regulation of PCBs under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) in 1976, PCBs were released (both accidentally and intentionally) into the atmosphere, water, and land through sewers, smokestacks, storm water runoff, spills, and direct application to the environment (for example, to reduce dust emissions and to extend the life of some agricultural pesticide formulations). Large volumes of PCBs have been introduced to the environment through the burning of PCB-containing products, vaporization from PCB-containing coatings and materials, releases into sewers and streams, improper disposal of PCB-containing equipment in non-secure landfill sites and municipal disposal facilities, and by other routes (such as ocean dumping).
Based on the current regulation of PCBs, the current primary “new” sources of PCB contamination are limited to outdated or illegal landfills and scrap yards and leaks or explosions of electrical equipment and other equipment (such as locomotive transformers) that may still contain PCBs.
3. Where did the PCBs come from and is there an ongoing discharge to the Mill River?
This is undetermined. Since PCBs are so widely found in the environment based on their historical industrial applications, it is impossible to know where the exact source of the PCBs originated at this time. It is highly unlikely that there is an ongoing discharge of PCBs to the river since the materials have not been used in new industrial applications since 1979 and all industrial discharges to the river were discontinued in the 1980s.
4. How can I be exposed to PCBs and is the public at risk from the PCBs contamination?
In general, individuals are exposed to PCBs overwhelmingly through the ingestion of food, much less so by breathing contaminated air, and least by skin contact. There is no threat to the general public based on the discovery of PCBs at the Exide remediation site. All residents of the State of Connecticut should review the human health fish consumption advisories that are issued by the Connecticut Department of Public Health (DPH). A link to the DPH site has been provided below along with the contact information for those responsible for the oversight of the Exide remediation project.
5. Why was Exide not required to sample for PCBs as part of the dredging project?
Based on the Exide Corporation’s past industrial practices, the CTDEEP and Exide’s environmental consultants did not find PCBs to be a Constituent of Environmental Concern associated with the site. Historical testing completed of the Mill River sediments only revealed low levels of PCBs typical of any urban watershed.
6. Who will now be responsible to make sure that the river sediments do not contain PCBs?
This is undetermined at this point. The CTDEEP and EPA will have to determine if there is a responsible party regarding the release of PCBs and what is the next course of action regarding any additional sediment sampling of the Mill River, if any.
7. How long will it take now that PCBs were discovered in the pile to have the bags removed?
This is undetermined. The Exide Corporation is waiting to receive direction from the CTDEEP and EPA regarding the necessary steps to ensure that the material is properly transported to a facility that is licensed to accept PCBs waste for final disposal. The EPA will review the Exide Corporation’s disposal plan and will provide comments and direction once the regulatory review has been completed.
8. Is it safe to eat fish from the river?
As was previously mentioned, people should always check the advisories issued for fish consumption for the general public by the Department of Public Health.
9. Would the treatment that Exide Corporation has used at the site to remediate the lead contamination change now that PCBs were discovered in the river?
No. The same wastewater treatment requirements and precautionary measures that were used during the dredging operations would not have changed based on the recent discovery of PCBs in the dredged materials. The dredging process was very controlled and designed to cause the least amount of disturbance to the river environment. The process would not have changed based on the presence of the newly found PCBs.
For More Information:
If you have any questions or comments, or would like to be added to a distribution list for future project updates, please contact:
-Exide’s environmental consultant CCA, LLC: Richard R. Chandler L.E.P., C.P.G. (203) 815-3141, firstname.lastname@example.org
-Town of Fairfield Conservation Director: Brian Carey (203) 256-3071, email@example.com
-Town of Fairfield Health Director: Sands Cleary (203) 256-3020, firstname.lastname@example.org
-CTDEEP Contact: Don Gonyea (860) 424-3821, email@example.com
The CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection has project information on its website: http://www.ct.gov/deep/cwp/view.asp?a=2719&q=517076&depNav_GID=1654.
The public can also view the Connecticut Department of Public Health website: