Federal regulators will hold a community meeting Thursday to update residents on the status of a $3.5 million cleanup plan to remove a toxic dry-cleaning solvent from a south Richmond County well field that once supplemented Augusta’s drinking water.
The chemical, tetrachloroethylene – also known as perchloroethene, or PCE – was discovered in 1996 and traced to dry-cleaning businesses in the Peach Orchard Road area. The contamination is believed to have affected about 350 acres.
Although the solvent was detected only in raw water – and never in treated water pumped to municipal customers – the affected wells were taken out of service long ago.
The preferred cleanup method chosen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2007 involves technology called in-situ chemical oxidation, in which hydrogen peroxide is injected into the underground contamination, causing the toxic solvent to oxidize into harmless materials.
Thursday’s meeting, which will begin at 6 p.m. at Butler High School, will include an update on the cleanup efforts to date and an overview of additional work that will occur at the site, said Giezelle Bennett, the EPA’s remedial project manager.
“We have finished the treatability study and the design and will be starting the first injection of the in-situ chemical oxidation reagent early next year,” she said, adding that those injections will continue for three years.
A cleanup feature added to the original plan includes a process to extract contaminants from soil beneath three of the dry cleaning businesses identified as sources of the chemical.
“We are proposing a soil vapor extraction remedy that can remove the contamination from the soil while not disrupting the currently operating dry cleaners,” she said. “The businesses can stay open while the remediation is taking place.”