The Northern Virginia Daily

February 29, 2012

Avtex cleanup clears milestone

Environmental Protection Agency approves plan for treatment of former waste disposal units on site

By Joe Beck

FRONT ROYAL -- The cleanup of the former Avtex Fibers property has passed another milestone with approval from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency of a plan to clean up part of the defunct facility.

The approval involves three former waste disposal units called viscose basins. They are part of a tract of land west of the railroad tracks that has been designated as a conservancy area.

The design plan calls for:

Covering the top of the three remaining viscose basins with a plastic liner and vegetated soil cover.
Building a wastewater treatment plant that will treat leachate from viscose basins and polluted groundwater.
Digging leachate and groundwater extraction wells.

Jennifer R. McDonald, executive director of the Economic Development Authority, which owns the former Avtex site of approximately 433 acres, praised U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf, R-10th, and FMC Corp., a former owner of the plant held partly responsible for the pollution and cleanup.

"Any progress that happens on the site is encouraging to the EDA," McDonald said in an email message. "It shows the dedication to this community by not only FMC, but Congressman Wolf and all of the other stakeholders that have been involved in this process since its inception."

The cleanup of the site still has a ways to go. EPA officials said construction of the cap for the viscose basins is expected to begin in the next few weeks, and the wastewater treatment plant is expected to follow in June. The project is scheduled to be fully operational by September 2014.

In the meantime, the agency has issued a fact sheet warning those near the construction site to expect it to emit a smell like rotten eggs. The odors come from hydrogen sulfide in the groundwater, leachate and other chemical waste at the site.

The fact sheet states the agency will conduct air monitoring "to ensure there is no unacceptable level of exposure" to the public.

While the final cleanup phase on the western side of the site proceeds, the 162 acres on the eastern side of the project may also be nearing the end of a long cleanup.

McDonald said she is expecting FMC to submit a letter to the EPA in the next few weeks that will serve as a final report on its cleanup efforts on the part of the site deemed suitable for redevelopment.

The EPA will review the report and issue a response by the end of the year that may signal the eastern portion of the site is ready for redevelopment after a 12-year process.

"We thank FMC for all their hard work in making this happen and thank all of our stakeholders involved in making the plans for this site a reality in the future," McDonald said.