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Clean report paves way for final phase of studies on Tyson

(Aug. 20, 2015) The 611-page environmental report on the former Tyson’s Chicken plant in Berlin conducted by EA Engineering Science & Tech shows a mostly clean bill of health, although there were a few hiccups along the way in the property’s 100-year-plus history.
Released by the town last week and conducted from March to June, the study began with the obvious: the southwestern portion was used as a poultry processing plant beginning in the 1940s, while the remaining portion consisted of mostly agricultural land until the 1960s, when several waste treatment lagoons were built.
Three parcels of land totaling 56.72 acres make up the property the town voted in December to buy from Berlin Properties North LLC. Parcel 0052 consists of 43.36 acres of land, containing no structures, and listed as industrial use. Parcel 0057 contains 3.98 acres and a 70,103-square-foot manufacturing structure. Parcel 0410 has 9.38 acres, a 5,796-square-foot service garage.
The study was done, following an appraisal that valued the property at $2.5 million, as phase two of a three-part series of studies the town commissioned before formally purchasing the land with the intention of building a multi-purpose recreation facility.
EA completed phase one of the environmental site assessment using American Society for Testing and Materials E1527-13 Standard Practice for Environmental Site Assessments Phase I Environmental Site Assessment (ESA) Process.
The company also examined historical reports pertaining to underground storage tanks and “elevated levels of volatile organic compounds identified in onsite wells and prior operation activities,” although the elevated levels were later labeled “not to be attributed” to the site.
EA found the site needed no additional investigation or actions for industrial use, but recommended additional investigations in order to revise the approved use to recreational, as per Maryland Department of Environment standards.
In conducting the study, EA reviewed “current and historical activities and conditions,” as well as local, state and federal records. The review apparently did not address issues involving asbestos, lead-based paint, drinking water quality or radon. Neither did it do a chemical analysis of soil, surface water, or groundwater.
Currently, the property is used as a “lay-down and storage yard for electrical equipment and supplies related to a large scale electric project in the area,” the study said.
As for problems with the property, a 2001 report listed a storage tank failure, when 60 pounds of material “was released out of a chlorine cylinder due to a faulty regulator valve.” A 2004 study found no violations related to the property, but did suggest nitrates and other chemicals may have settled at the bottom of the waste treatment lagoons.
Also at various times, motor or lubrication oil worked its way into the groundwater.
Hudson Foods was apparently fined $7,500 for exceeding the “total suspended solids and biochemical oxygen demand effluent limitations on multiple occasions” from November 1987 through November 1988.
A United States Environmental Protection Agency Court Settlement dated September 1998 revealed Hudson Foods was also fined $4 million and $2 million for pollution associated with “discharging wastewater with illegal levels of fecal coliform, phosphorous, nitrogen, ammonia, and other pollutants into Kitts Branch.”
Corrective measures were taken subsequent to that finding.
The study also investigated several adjacent sites, which were found to have no potential impact on the property.
A study done in 2004 attempting to link the then Tyson plant with “trace benzene and MTBE contamination detected in groundwater wells located in the area” concluded that Tyson was unlikely the source and a 2005 screening of the plant came back relatively clean, save for two tests that found high levels of benzene on the site.
Jim Hulbert of EA inspected the site on March 30.
Hulbert recommended the 2005 MDE VCP letter be completed.
“Based on the findings of this Phase I ESA, additional investigations are recommended to revise the approved use category of the subject site. EA also recommends removal/disposal of remnant materials observed in various outbuildings on the subject site,” Hulbert wrote.
EA also completed a 235-page phase two investigation, evaluating conditions not covered in previous investigations and necessary to meet MDE requirements to revise the Activity and Use Limitation for recreational use.
Soil, groundwater and surface water samples were taken in June, finding arsenic levels “slightly greater” than MDE Residential Soil Clean-up standards, although lower than the MDE Anticipated Typical Concentration levels.
Benzo(a)pyrene and benzo(a)anthracene were found in a single surface sample next to the former maintenance room, but levels were “not anticipated to represent an exposure concern for the recreational user.” The study also found E.coli and enterococci in surface water samples greater than MDE Recreational Use criteria.
“Based on review of the soil and groundwater analytical data, it appears that there are no analytes of concern detected at concentrations or frequency that would represent a human health concern for future recreational users of the Site,” the study concluded.
However, recreational use of the lagoon was not recommended as, “Concentrations of E. coli and enterococci reported at the northernmost edge of the lagoons indicate an exposure concern.”
Both phases cost the town a total of $20,995.93 or approximately $25 per page.
The Berlin council approved $34,500 for a feasibility study last week, the last step before the town explores financing options for the property in a $2.75 million sale with Berlin Properties North.