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The Montross Superfund site that escaped clean-up for 35 years as part of a new $ 1 billion campaign

A highly contaminated Westmoreland County site once used to make cosmetic cases may finally be cleaned up after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency selected it as one of the first recipients of Superfund spending. ‘$ 1 billion included in the recently enacted federal infrastructure law.

Approximately $ 8.3 million is expected to be spent cleaning up groundwater and soil contamination at the Arrowhead Associates / Scovill Manufacturing Superfund site, located about three kilometers south-east of Montross, in the rural region of Northern Neck in Virginia.

The funding comes from the first round of $ 3.5 billion in federal infrastructure spending for work on Superfund sites, considered the worst of the most polluted places in the United States.

Virginia is home to 36 Superfund sites, many of which are linked to historic industrial activity and military installations.

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The Arrowhead-Scovill site, which was added to the national priority list in 1990, has plagued environmental officials since the United States Environmental Protection Agency began trying to clean it up in 1986 .

Beginning in the mid-1960s, a series of companies manufactured cosmetic cases on site using electroplating, lacquering and enamelling processes. The first clean-up phase involved the removal of hundreds of barrels of hazardous chemicals, including cyanide solutions, solvents and corrosives.

But despite repeated efforts and investments, a January 2021 EPA report found that “hazardous substances, pollutants or contaminants remain on site above levels that allow unrestricted use and unrestricted exposure. “.

Investigations revealed persistent contamination of soil and groundwater at the site.

The 2021 report identifies three solvents: tetrachloroethene, commonly known as PCE; trichloroethene or TCE; and 1,4-dioxane – as “the key contaminants of concern that pose the greatest potential unacceptable risks to human health at the site”.

The former Arrowhead / Scovill site now contains a manufacturing building, parking lot, five former sludge settling ponds and a treated wastewater pond. It is currently operated as a tactical security training center.

In a Friday statement announcing the 49 projects that will receive the first billion dollars in new spending from the Superfund, EPA administrator Michael Regan said about 60% are in historically underserved communities.

Virginia Representative Donald McEachin, D-Richmond, called the new funding a “monumental first step in fighting environmental injustice and securing a healthier future for all Americans, regardless of their zip code or their socio-economic status “.

In addition to billions of dollars in infrastructure, the Superfund program will also receive an influx of money from a reinstated excise tax, ranging from 48 cents to $ 9.74 per tonne, on the sale of 42 chemicals. Such a “polluter tax” existed until 1995, when Congress allowed it to expire.