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River and Environmental Issues

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TEXAS COMMITTEE ON NATURAL RESOURCES
P.O Box 235222
Nacogdoches, Texas 75961
(936) 615-3740


October 6, 2005

TO:
Don Maisch
Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality
Water Quality Division
P.O. Box 1677
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73101-1677

To assist the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality in its decision to grant the applicant - Weyerhaueser Craig Facility - a permit to discharge stormwater into the Mountain Fork River in McCurtain County Oklahoma, we present the following evidence on record with Region 6 of the Environmental Protection Agency:

1. Historic Production and Wastewater Discharges

EPA hazardous waste site logs completed in the 1980s show that Weyerhaeuser's 1000- acre Craig Plant produced more than 317.5 1000 square feet of particleboard per day, 540 tons of insulation board per day and 200 tons of S2S Hardboard per day. During production more than 2.7 million gallons of wastewater was discharged into the Mountain Fork River per day.

Discharge records yielded the following chemicals and amount in wastewater that was produced per day:

  • Organics 90 lbs per day
  • Oil and Grease 14 lbs per day
  • Phosphorous 2.8 lbs per day
  • Aluminum 12.5 lbs per day
  • Barium 3.1 lbs per day
  • Iron 31.2 lbs per day
  • Magnesium 56 lbs per day
  • Manganese 14 lbs per day

  • NOTE: these heavy metals, especially Aluminum, have been linked to cause neurological problems in humans including Alzheimer's disease.

    2. the wastewater treatment system and the contents of three landfills

    According to EPA hazardous waste site inspection reports, solid wastes produced from the Craig Plant were separated from the wastewater sludge in a settling basin. The liquids were dumped into a raw storage pond, which then flowed into one of four aerated ponds and discharged into one of two natural oxidation ponds. Effluent from oxidation ponds flowed into an unnamed creek or ditch which discharges a half mile to the east into the Mountain Fork River.

    The record shows that waste flowing into this chain of ponds at a minimum consisted of 75,000 gallons per year of paint pigments solvents and inorganic cleaners; 6000 gallons per year of used oil -crank case and hydraulic lubricating oils, unknown amounts of halogenated solvents and unknown chemicals only described as "Acids." The record shows these ponds have no membrane liners and that the groundwater table is 3.5-15 feet below the pond floors.

    The record also shows that in the mid 1980s dredgings from the settling basin, fiber sawdust, rejected products (boards), fiber chips, fiber sand and other solid wastes were discarded into three active onsite landfills. Significantly, these landfills today have no membrane liners. Moreover, the landfills had no groundwater monitoring wells until recently within the last five years.

    According to EPA reports landfills were covered with one foot of earth while the groundwater table is 3.5-15 feet below each landfill. The Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality is aware that the purpose of a membrane liner is to prevent waste in landfills from leaching or migrating out of a landfill into surrounding soils and into the groundwater.

    The record shows that more than 17,000 tons of fiber sawdust and fiber chip waste was produced per year at the Craig Plant. Landfill No. 1 contains fiber sawdust, fiber chips and fibersand. Landfill No. 2 contains fibersand, fibersawdust, and settling basin sludge that was dredged out of the settling basin every two years. Importantly, representatives of the Craig Plant admitted to EPA investigators to dumping unknown amounts of sodium pentachlorophenate and more than 35,000 gallons of lead based paint into Landfill No. 3. as well as woodfiber and chips, sand asphalt, oil, grease and wastewater sludge.

    EPA inspectors characterized the contents of these landfills as flammable and toxic. Inspectors also observed more than 8 cubic yards of empty lead paint containers onsite and recorded that the surface water impoundments contained a total of 600,000 cubic feet of solid waste sediment created by the plant.

    Inspectors noted that the substances of greatest concern in the aeration ponds were sodium pentachlorphenate, lead based paint sludge, toluene, phenol, Mercury and Urea Formaldehyde, Chrysene and PCBs all of which are known to cause cancer in humans.

    A seed orchard also existed east of the plant. Weyerhaeuser sprayed pine trees in this orchard with a herbicide (Velpar) for foliage control and with a pesticide (Durshan) to control the spread of Pales Weevil. These chemicals penetrate the soil and migrate as stormwater runoff into the Mountain Fork River during rain events.

    Hazardous waste site inspection reports show that in 1981 six to seven million gallons of wastewater was released into the Mountain Fork River. Weyerhaeuser claims that vandalism probably contributed to this spill.

    We appreciate the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality response to hold this public meeting, however in the 1980s the Environmental Protection Agency treated the Craig Plant as a Superfund Site, a toxic waste dump which warranted action under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). The Department should understand why concerned citizens of Broken Bow requested this meeting to learn what pollutants and carcinogens may exist in the soil, surface water and groundwater below and beyond the Craig Plant.

    The record shows these landfills and treatment ponds on the Craig plant site were constructed in the Mountain Fork River floodplain. Therefore it is not unreasonable to question if stormwater runoff moving across the Craig Plant during rain and flood events, disturbs, collects and carries hazardous waste that has leached from the above said landfills and wastewater settling ponds which have no membrane liners installed.

    It is not unreasonable to question the extent of sediment disturbance in the ponds during rain and flood events which may release toxic waste when these ponds flood and are flushed out with overflow of the Mountain Fork River. These contaminants would obviously move as stormwater into the remainder of the Mountain Fork floodplain and other streams including the Little and Red Rivers.

    II. QUESTION/ ISSUE PRESENTED:

    Is stormwater runoff that moves across the Craig Plant during rain and flood events transporting toxic waste into the Mountain Fork River and floodplain that has leached from the non membrane lining landfills and historic wastewater ponds?

    In answering this question please answer the following subquestions:

    1. a. Does the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality (OkDEQ) acknowledge the fact that even landfills with membrane liners have been known to fail to contain disposed waste or the outward migration of leachate into surrounding soil, surface water and groundwater?

    b. Since landfills on the Craig Plant have no membrane liners or groundwater monitoring wells, please cite all OkDEQ reports that show that in the last twenty years, known contaminants of the landfill have been contained and have not migrated into the groundwater that flows in an easterly direction into the Mountain Fork River only .5 mile from the plant site.

    2. Please provide evidence in the form of a 3-D graphic chemical fate and transport computer model and soil and water quality samples to demonstrate that compressed toxic sediment from these ponds and landfills are stabilized and do not move with surface water runoff during rain and overflow flood events of the Mountain Fork River. Please include an example of fate and transport during a 100 year flood event.

    3. Please articulate results from the Department's most recent soil, water quality and groundwater samples conducted and analyzed by the OkDEQ to demonstrate that stormwater runoff moving across the Craig Plant has not collected and transported toxic and flammable waste that may have migrated from the landfills into the Mountain Fork River. If these studies have not been conducted please explain for their absence.

    4. Please provide a detailed analysis of results yielded in your latest report of contaminants found in fat tissues of fish that may exist in the ponds on the Craig Plant property.

    5. Please provide a detailed analysis of results yielded in your latest report of contaminants found in fat tissues of fish taken from the Mountain Fork River upstream and downstream of the Craig Plant's NPDES outfall.

    6. Please describe the results of the latest fish, macrobenthic, amphibian, reptile, furbearer and mollusks assemblages that have been conducted in the Mountain Fork River downstream of the Craig Plant and in the Little River in McCurtain County. Please note the dates of these studies. If no studies have been conducted please explain for their absence.

    7. Please present evidence to support that stormwater moving over the Craig Plant does not carry toxic chemicals and will not jeopardize human health of residents within a two mile radius of the project site.

    8. Since this segment of the Mountain Fork River, upstream and downstream of highway 70 is a high use recreational stream enjoyed by canoeist/ paddlers, fishermen, hunters and outdoor enthusiast, please present evidence to support that stormwater moving over the Craig Plant does not and will not jeopardize recreational paddlers (canoeist and kayakers) fisherpersons, scubadivers and swimmers who have contact with the Mountain Fork River up and downstream of the Craig Plant outfall.

    9. Please present evidence to support that stormwater moving over the Craig Plant does not have a negative effect on the Mountain Fork River fish populations.

    10. Please present evidence to determine the presence of Velpar and Durshan in soils on the Craig Plant site and whether these herbicides and pesticides are present in the stormwater runoff moving across the plant during rain events.

    The applicant's request to waive the 15 foot vertical zone between the floor of the wastewater ponds and the aquifer should be denied.

    The applicant's Statement of Basis requests the Department to waive the 15 foot vertical buffer between the floor of the waste ponds and the top of the groundwater in accordance with OAC 252:616-7-1(4) "because of the class III wastewater contained within the impoundments." Statement of Basis page 37. We disagree with the classification of waste in these landfills and in the lagoon system. In Oklahoma creosote, sodium pentachlorophenate and lead based paint should be considered Class II waste instead of Class III since these landfills and lagoons are suspected to contain pollutants for which the toxicitiy, concentration and volume pose an undeniable risk of harm to humans, aquatic life, wildlife or the environment as defined in OAC 252:616-7 (2005). The Department should therefore deny the applicant's request to waive this important 15 foot vertical buffer between the floor of the landfill and the groundwater below.

    IV. The Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality must conduct an Environmental Impact Statement before issuing an OPDES permit to the applicant

    Since stormwater moving across the Craig facility may extract, transport and discharge toxic chemicals from the Craig Plant into the Mountain Fork River, the granting of a storm water permit to the applicant triggers the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality's requirement to first comply with the National Environmental Policy Act and conduct an Environmental Impact Statement. In this case, granting an ODES permit to the applicant is a "major federal action significantly affecting the quality of the human environment." 42 U.S.C. 4321 (2005). The Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality must first conduct an Environmental Impact Statement before issuing this OPDES permit. Since stormwater from the Craig facility may transport potentially hazardous and toxic chemicals into the Mountain Fork River which drains into the Little River, Red River and ultimately Mississippi River, the breadth of the EIS should extend to the Mississippi River, since hundreds of communities in three states rely on these streams as sources of drinking water.

    V. Potential of groundwater contamination

    Recent personal interviews with several ex-employees of the Craig Plant who allegedly dumped toxic waste (including tons of creosote) into these landfills, suggest a strong potential for groundwater contamination in the aquifer underlying the Craig facility and adjoining properties. The Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality is now on notice of potential groundwater contamination problem in McCurtain County. We recommend a state and federal investigation of the extent of groundwater contamination under CERCLA, the Clean Water Act and the Safe Water Drinking Act of 1974.

    We appreciate your invitation to participate in this public meeting to help the Department decide whether to grant the applicant a permit to discharge potentially toxic stormwater runoff into the Mountain Fork River of McCurtain County - Oklahoma's no. 1 trout fishing stream.

    The Texas Committee on Natural Resources is the Texas affiliate of the National Wildlife Federation which takes the rights of riparian landowners, recreational river users, hunters and fishermen very seriously. Please do not hesitate to contact me if I may be of further assistance. Thank you.

    Sincerely,

    Christopher Hunter Jones
    Attorney

    Statements of Persons with Factual Knowledge about Weyerhaeuser Craig operationsSample letter to Agency Administrators, News Organizations and Environmental Activist GroupsLetters to Newspaper EditorsWeyerhaeuser Craig Facility Officals' comments

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