The Times West Virginian

Local News

May 15, 2014

Sharon Steel cleanup continues; end date not set

FAIRMONT — The cleanup efforts keep moving forward at the Sharon Steel Corp.-Fairmont Coke Works site, but a completion date is not yet known.

“ExxonMobil takes its environmental responsibility seriously and we are pleased that work continues to progress at the former Fairmont Coke Works site,” ExxonMobil said in a prepared statement.

For many years, ExxonMobil Environmental Services Co., the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection have been working to clean and assess the environmental issues of this former industrial property and prepare it for redevelopment. The site, which is part of the EPA’s Federal Superfund Program, is located on Fairmont’s East Side in the Winfield District near the Fairmont Armed Forces Reserve Center.

Fifty-five of the property’s 97 acres had been dedicated to the production of coke and also waste disposal and treatment operations for about 60 years. The rest of the land is a wooded hillside that goes to the Monongahela River.

Standard Oil Company of New Jersey, which was Exxon’s corporate predecessor, constructed the Fairmont Coke Works facility in 1918. Sharon Steel bought the site in 1948 and kept up the coke and by-product production until May 1979, when the plant closed. During the time the facility was open, the companies disposed of the waste materials from the production processes at different places on the site, and the remediation has concentrated on those areas.

According to the information recently provided by ExxonMobil, the company and its contractors are getting ready to collect samples of groundwater that are required in order to finish the Remedial Investigation/ Feasibility Study for the site. ExxonMobil states that this thorough report “describes the nature and extent of contamination remaining at the site, determines if residual contamination may present an unacceptable risk to people or the environment, considering current and potential future land use and if so, evaluates options that can be taken to mitigate those risks in the long term.”

This data that is gathered goes to the EPA so it can make a Record of Decision (ROD), which provides details about the ultimate solution and a timetable for those efforts.

In April, crews started installing more wells to monitor groundwater, and this work was anticipated to continue until the middle of this month, followed by the collection of samples in June. After that part of the process is done, the statistics will be sent in the final report to the EPA, which will examine the findings.

“The installation of the wells and the groundwater sampling are part of a comprehensive approach ExxonMobil has used to address the site and return it to productive use,” ExxonMobil reported. “We recognize the process seems to be taking a great deal of time; however, this is the nature of the Superfund process. We are grateful for the understanding of the community and its patience.”

In June of 1998, ExxonMobil worked with Charleston-based Ann Green Communications Inc. to form the Fairmont Community Liaison Panel, a community group to provide a creative forum for dialogue and interaction during the cleanup project.

An update that was mailed to members of the panel on April 28 stated that a small number of workers have been present on the property performing these various field activities. The information also mentioned that ExxonMobil has been staying in touch with the City of Fairmont, and the site is actually ready for redevelopment at any time.

During the different pieces of this project, ExxonMobil has remained dedicated to making sure the community knows about the work being done and stays up-to-date on the happenings. The company said in the recent statement that it will continue to keep all parties informed.

“ExxonMobil is pleased with the results it is seeing and is proud of the team that made it happen,” ExxonMobil stated. “The company now is working to move through this process. However, the timeline for completing the project is unknown at this time. That information will be determined during the ROD phase of the project.”

Email Jessica Borders at jborders@timeswv.com or follow her on Twitter @JBordersTWV.

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