NEW CREEK, W.Va. — A $1.8 million cleanup of hazardous material at a former wood treatment facility and sawmill owned by Lawrence Kessel is coming to a close after over four months of excavation and decontamination, according to Don McLaughlin, on-scene coordinator with the Environmental Protection Agency.

The site, located off Rockland Farm Drive adjacent to the Great Oak Valley subdivision, is just up the road from the site of Kessel’s dry kiln, which burned in 2005.

McLaughlin said the site being cleaned of contamination was not affected by the fire.

It was, however, the subject of a complaint received by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection well over a year ago.

“The DEP asked the EPA to evaluate the site, and we took a whole lot of soil samplings and gravel samplings,” McLaughlin told the Mineral County Commission recently.

“We found quite a large extent of contamination.”

According to information supplied to adjacent homeowners prior to the cleanup, the lumber company had used chromated copper arsenate (CCA) to treat cut lumber and make it resistant to environmental decay. The components of CCA include chromium, copper and arsenic.

“Routine operations at the facility resulted in numerous drips, spills and leaks throughout the history of the site,” McLaughlin said. “Consequently, surface and subsurface soils, as well as the remains of the facility, are contaminated with hazardous substances at concentrations considered to pose a risk to public health and the environment.”

“The site was contaminated to the point that it was an emergency,” Tech Turner of the DEP told the commissioners.

Noting that the site was separated by a large subdivision by a mere dirt road, Turner said, “we had to do something to keep kids from coming in and playing in the soil and getting poisoned.”

According to McLaughlin, workers removed a portion of a concrete pad located on the property and excavated the soil “down to six feet in depth.

“We removed 1,900 tons of soil just this past week,” he said.

The inside of several large storage tanks located inside the building were encrusted with contaminated residue, and that was scraped off by hand and shoveled out, he said.

With the completion of the work, McLaughlin said if a child were to dig around on the site, “he would have to dig pretty good” before he reached any of the contaminated soil.

“He’d have to dig two feet in most areas and six feet under the concrete pad,” he said.

Despite the tedious work which has continued since April, McLaughlin said there is still some contamination that remains on the site.

“We found a lot of contamination, but we are also leaving contamination,” he told the commissioners. “It’s important for you all to know that.”

McLaughlin called the residue “sub-surface contamination,” however, noting that it has been covered with “a highly visible orange marker fence,” which was then covered with backfill material.

“If a trespasser were to go onto the site, there would be no contamination to hurt him,” he said.

He did caution, however, that the remaining residue could be a problem if someone were to try to develop the property in the future.

Asked about any possible water contamination, since Hoffman’s Run, which is fed by drainage ditches at the site, flows into New Creek, McLauglin said they had not detected any contamination in the ground water levels.

“We collected samples going down Hoffman Run into New Creek and we didn’t find anything,” he said, adding that, in addition, “the state’s been monitoring that since 1998 or ’99.”

Commission President Janice LaRue said the commissioners would definitely keep the property “on our radar screens” in regard to any possibility of future problems created by the contamination.

The wood treatment facility was operated by the Kessel Lumber Co. from 1971 until December 2004.

Contact Liz Beavers at lbeavers@times-news.com.

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