EPA holding community meeting Jan. 15
by Emily Adams
EPA is holding a community meeting to discuss the future of cleanup efforts at REEF this Tuesday from 6-8 p.m. at the J. Craig Smith Community Center. Pictured, EPA workers remove sludge from an equalization basin at the site last month.
SYLACAUGA – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is holding a community meeting next week to update citizens on cleanup progress at the former REEF waste treatment facility.

The meeting is set for Jan. 15 from 6-8 p.m. at the J. Craig Smith Community Center. EPA on-scene coordinator David Andrews said they have good news to share regarding their current efforts, and they will also be discussing a long-term plan for treatment and removal of the 13 million gallons of wastewater that remain at the site.

“The meeting is going to be an update on some of the milestones we’ve reach so far in our removal at the REEF site and will also give people a heads up about what’s next,” Andrews said. “We promised to give an update after the New Year, so we’re following through with that.”

In December, the agency pledged to have the noxious odor from REEF gone by Christmas. The plan was to kill the odor-causing bacteria found in the wastewater by applying a strong hydrogen peroxide solution, and Andrews said their plan worked.

“It has been very effective,” he said. “We’ve got one more operation that we’re doing on one basin that still has a sludge layer on it, so there occasionally might be a light whiff of the odor, but we should be done with that completely soon.”

Andrews said citizens in the neighborhoods surrounding the Twin Street facility have reacted positively to EPA’s presence and progress.

“We’ve had people coming up to us in the street thanking us,” he said. “Overall, it’s been very positive.”

In addition to the hydrogen peroxide treatment, EPA has emptied the 50,000 square foot drying beds that held oily materials and installed an interceptor trench to catch leakage that was flowing into Shirtee Creek from one of the three basins on site. Now that the stench is controlled, EPA is focusing on a long-term solution to clean and remove the remaining waste, which was left in various stages of treatment.

Citizens can expect a community update from EPA every couple of months as the process moves forward. EPA first held a community meeting in October shortly after arriving at the site, where it works in coordination with Alabama Department of Environmental Management.

Now bankrupt, REEF closed in late 2010 after the Sylacauga Utilities Board stopped accepting its discharges. It treated waste from a variety of industries and businesses in the area, which could eventually be tapped to help pay for the cleanup in accordance with EPA’s cost recovery plan.

For online EPA updates, visit www.epaosc.org/reefwaste.

Contact Emily Adams at eadams@dailyhome.com.

© 2013