After decades of toxic waste affecting local towns, Martinsville has received federal funds to begin the cleanup of Superfund sites in 2022.
Martinsville and 48 other Superfund sites received a $1 billion investment from President Joseph Biden’s $3.5 billion bipartisan infrastructure law.
“For more than 100 years, the upper Midwest was the nation’s industrial center. But when factories and mills closed, they left behind a legacy of toxic sites that are challenging to clean up,” Debra Shore, EPA regional administrator, in a news release.
The Pike and Mulberrry streets PCE plume site in Martinsville showed promise for a cleanup makeover due to its several sources of contamination such as chlorinated solvents and tetrachloroethylene (PCE), which can be airborne and found in dry cleaning products.
Long-term exposure can cause “ kidney damage, reduced red blood cells, and blood and immune system effects,” according to the New York State Health Department.
According to the EPA, Pike and Mulberry’s Master Wear, a dry cleaner and laundry of more than 30 years, contaminated Martinsville’s local drinking water wells serving more than 15,000 people.
The Martinsville site was first assessed in 2005, but the national priorities list was not proposed until 2012, finalizing in 2013. The remedial investigation, a study to collect data and determine the extent of the contamination, started in 2014 and was finalized in 2021.
Action is expected to take place between February and March. with no projected date to finish the cleanup.
The first 49 Superfund sites were selected because the work to clean them had already begun but due to lack of funds the cleanup work did not continue. This time, with the federal funding, EPA is ready to start the cleanup and finish it.
Previous efforts for Martinsville included the creation of a $1.5 million water treatment plant, where the water of three cities is filtered and then treated with chlorine, phosphate and fluoride. This has made the water safe for drinking and fulfills federal and state requirements.
According to the press release, the $1 billion will be used to focus on vapor contamination near the groundwater plumes, which is the area where it’s known that the water is contaminated with chemicals. Indoor air sampling will help determine locations to install vapor mitigation systems. The funding will also be used to install treatment systems to focus on vapor contaminations.
As of this year, there are 38 active Superfund sites throughout the state, according to EPA’s database. However, there are 1,322 Superfund sites nationwide.
A Superfund site is considered contaminated land left behind by abandoned mills and factories that have accumulated toxic waste over time, making it challenging to clean up. Programs such as Superfund redevelopment by the EPA work toward cleaning up listed Superfund sites.
Research has shown that Superfund sites are harmful to children and others due to toxic chemicals and can cause cancer, birth defect, disabilities and more, according to the Center of Health, Environment and Justice.
Carolina Puga Mendoza is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.