Letter: Contamination Monitoring Continues

Letter: Contamination Monitoring Continues

To The Editor:

I want to take this opportunity to provide your readers, a status report on the ongoing effort to remediate the groundwater contamination from the former Exxon station on the west side of Walker Road at Georgetown Pike, and to recognize citizens working on this issue.

About a year ago, the Great Falls Citizen’s Association Special Committee on Groundwater Contamination began to evaluate the contamination, conduct a survey and educate the public, and work with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and the site owner, Fairfax Petroleum Realty, which purchased the site from Exxon in 2010. The GFCA Special Committee includes co-chairs Amy Stephan and Glen Sjoblom, and Phil Pifer, Dr. Ralph Lazaro, Jackie Taylor, and Ed Behrens. There has been much cooperation among all parties. We also are grateful for the pro bono expert assistance by Dr. Matt Tonkin, President, SS Papadopolus and Associates of Bethesda, as well as Dr. Kent Campbell, Manager, HP Environmental of Herndon. Their expertise added substantially to the value of review efforts.

The public opinion survey results of over 600 Great Falls residents confirmed our understanding of the importance of clean well water to our residents, and gave us insights into how we should proceed. Over the past 12 months, we corresponded with and met with the involved parties and held two Public Information Meetings at the Grange.

Last December (2013), GFCA reached agreement with owners of several business properties, to permit additional groundwater monitoring wells to the north, south, and southeast of the original site, to verify the extent of the plume of methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE), the toxic gasoline additive. This had apparently leaked from the underground gasoline storage tank system into the ground at the former Exxon site at 9901 Georgetown Pike. I am pleased to thank Dr. Ralph Lazaro, President of the Great Falls Business and Professional Association, and owner of the Professional Center, Mr. John Colby, part owner of the Crossroads Building, and Mr. Charlie Sherrin of the BFSaul Company, owner of Great Falls Center, for working with Mr. Mark Steele, Kleinfelder East, the environmental engineering firm hired by the site owner, to make arrangements for these additional monitoring wells.

Also last December, Mr. Eyob Mamo, President of Fairfax Petroleum Realty, formally agreed by exchange of letters, with the Great Falls Citizens Association, that the groundwater extraction remedy would be designed to have the capability and capacity to address MTBE at depth and off site and will be used to remediate the entire plume to a Virginia DEQ-approved end point.

Mr. Alex Wardle and Ms. Cynthia Sale of the DEQ Office in Woodbridge, Va. have been helpful to our community, by holding a public meeting on the Corrective Action Plan and by reviewing and responding to our technical comments on the Corrective Action Plan. They have facilitated the additional groundwater monitoring and efforts to remediate the soil and groundwater. A system to remove the volatile MTBE in the shallow soil column beneath the site was approved by DEQ in the initial CAP. Underground piping to five shallow suction wells on site and a small equipment building have been installed on the west side of the service station building and will begin operating this week.

In the most recent review of monitoring data with the Special Committee last week, the Kleinfelder East firm has confirmed that the MTBE groundwater contamination remains in an area on both sides of Walker Road, slowly moving to the southeast, and is not moving to the north or west of the original source. MTBE has been detected in a new monitoring well just south of the site, along a geologic fracture zone. As a result, Fairfax Petroleum Realty, Kleinfelder East and the DEQ have confirmed that they will monitor additional locations just farther south. They have also decided to install a groundwater pump and treat system on site to remediate the groundwater contamination. They indicated that this system is to be installed in about 90 days, and have stated that the system should withdraw and treat contamination from all directions within the contaminated plume.

In summary, we are grateful that DEQ, Fairfax Petroleum Realty and Kleinfelder East continue to cooperate with the community of Great Falls and will do all they can to ensure the contamination does not reach any private wells in Great Falls. Mr. Monty Berhane of Fairfax Petroleum Realty stated his company wants to be a good neighbor in Great Falls. Fairfax Petroleum Realty and the TD Bank plan to install a drive-in TD Bank on the site being remediated. The Great Falls Citizens Association will continue to pay attention to this issue until it is fully resolved.

Mark Eric Knudsen, President

Great Falls Citizens Association