Local residents in the Eastwick section of Southwest have been acutely aware of the health and environmental problems associated with the polluted Clearview landfill area along Darby Creek near 84th Street and Lindbergh Blvd., and its equally toxic neighbor, the Folcroft landfill in and near the Heinz Wildlife Refuge. Now the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is doing something about it – in a major way!
For the past four years, the EPA Region 3 team overseeing the projects has updated the local members of the Community Advisory Group (CAG) on a quarterly basis. This conforms with the EPA practice of keeping the affected community apprised of its major remediation efforts at Clearview and the progress of planning for Folcroft. The project, designated the Lower Darby Creek Superfund Site,involves isolating and covering over the huge mountain of trash dumped by the City and other waste disposal organizations – often illegally, beginning in the 1950s.
The Clearview landfill was finally closed in 1970 but harbored toxic chemicals and other harmful substances which are understood to have caused significant health problems, including cancer, to residents of Eastwick and other areas near the creek. They also pose severe ecological risks to other living things in nearby locations and have catastrophic potential in the event of a 100- or 500-year flood.
To reduce and hopefully eliminate these risks, the EPA has launched a unique “remediation program.”
This involves covering over the entire landfill site with a protective cap and four-foot layer of clean soil and creating catchment ditches tied to a new, natural toxin-absorbing wetlands area. These steps are expected to reduce and hopefully eliminate both health and environmental risks.
At the June 26 meeting at the Eastwick Recreation Center at 80th Street and Mars Avenue, EPA Remedial Project Manager Josh Barber highlighted the progress the EPA has achieved at Clearview and laid out the expectations for completion of the first and second phases of the remediation program:
– Removing and replacing contaminated dirt from 183 homes in Eastwick near the landfill and plans for dealing with a dozen or so remaining private properties and some city-owned vacant land.
– Continuing the construction of new stream banks along the Eastwick side of Darby Creek.
– Confirmation that the City of Philadelphia has agreed to contribute $8.4 million toward the EPA remediation costs in connection with its municipal dumping at Clearview.
– The likelihood of completing the soil cover and planting of thousands of trees and shrubs on top of the Clearview site by the end of 2020 – making it safe and suitable for public walking and biking trails.
– The need for a re-assessment of the catchment area for water that might leach from the remediated landfill site, the study of which will begin shortly.
Barber also answered questions concerning the safety of workers faced with dealing with the old, polluted soil and the trash being uncovered (they are appropriately protected), and the constant presence of a water truck to keep down the dust on dry days. He also requested that anyone with photos of recent floods in the Eastwick area contact him so that these can be forwarded to a university group that is studying 100 and 500 year flood risks (Josh Barber (215) 814-3393 or firstname.lastname@example.org)
Meeting moderator Ted Pickett noted that the next CAG meeting would take place at the Eastwick Rec Center September 25. More information can be obtained by visiting http://www.eldcacag.org/ or https://response.epa.gov/site/site_profile.aspx?site_id=5864