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Hazardous waste cleanup continues at Powell Butte ranch

Nearly 500 tons of waste is in the process of being excavated
The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) recently issued two pre-enforcement notices to North Bend resident Dennis Beetham for several environmental violations on his Powell Butte ranch.
   Clean-up of approximately 500 tons of hazardous and non-hazardous formaldehyde waste uncovered by DEQ officials on the property is almost complete.
    Beetham, the owner of D.B. Western, a major formaldehyde manufacturer, was issued the initial pre-enforcement notice on Sept. 21, 2007, following DEQ inspections of his Cinder Lakes Ranch property located on Northwest McDaniel Road. The DEQ was notified by SMAF Environmental of Prineville when they noticed large bags sticking out of the ground.
   The bags were inspected by DEQ officials and were found to contain urea formaldehyde resin, which is described by Jeff Ingalls, DEQ hazardous waste compliance inspector, as "X004 industrial solid waste," and not hazardous. It was speculated that the resin came from a manufacturing plant in Las Vegas, New Mexico.
   After the initial findings, Ingalls cited violations and, in a letter to Beetham, told him he had five days to secure a contractor and begin remediation on the site.
   Rick Martson, an attorney with Tonkon Torp LLC of Portland and D.B. Western's representative, noted that the remediation plan has been, with one exception, fully executed.
   "We've been fully cooperative with the DEQ, which they acknowledged, and had at all times a very qualified environmental consultant on site directing the work," he said.
   The exception he mentioned is two tanks still on the property that were recently found to contain formaldehyde residue and have been sealed to prevent leakage. A disposal plan has not yet been determined for these because mares on the property are in a critical period of foaling and will need to be accommodated.
   Martson would not comment on why Beetham and D.B. Western disposed of the materials on the ranch. Beetham could not be reached for comment.
   Excavation of the urea formaldehyde resin began on Oct. 4, and involved removal of around 40 one-ton "super sacks," which had been deposited in a large cinder pit on the property. But that wasn't all the DEQ found.
   Buried underneath these sacks, officials also uncovered bags of paraformaldehyde, a listed hazardous waste labeled as U122, and Beetham was issued a second notice on Nov. 28.
   "Paraformaldehyde, which is basically hardened formaldehyde, is a listed hazardous waste, and we did find that. It was dumped in sacks, some of it was in drums, and some of it was in lawn bags," Ingalls said.
   After its removal, the waste was managed properly off-site. The urea formaldehyde resin went to Arlington, Ore., as industrial processed waste and the U122 listed paraformaldehyde was shipped to Utah for incineration.
   According to Ingalls, due to weather and deterioration, some of the urea formaldehyde resin had actually seeped out of the bags, contaminating the underlying cinder.
   "So we dug all that out," he said. "What we did was dig down to non-detect. We did several confirmatory sampling events and we'd still have areas of contamination, so we went deeper and deeper until we got it all."
   In all, the excavation produced around 250 tons of urea formaldehyde resin and about the same amount of paraformaldehyde. Officials also removed about 2,500 tons of contaminated cinder and other general waste. Ingalls estimates that Beetham began depositing the material at the site around 2006.
   "We feel really positive about the excavation," Ingalls said. "We feel confident that we got the chemicals out of the ground and we got any residual contamination that came from those cleaned up to non-detect."
   However, some Powell Butte landowners aren't entirely convinced that the site is clean.
   Craig Kilpatrick, a land use consultant whose family collectively owns property adjacent to the Cinder Lakes Ranch for about two miles, is principally concerned about contamination of groundwater.
   "I'm not doubting the DEQ, it sounded like they did a very thorough job," he said. "But there is no way the public can know if it's been totally cleaned out. It doesn't give me a guarantee that the water is safe."
   He hopes that Beetham and D.B. Western will take the responsibility to test the wells on a regular basis, especially the irrigation wells that pump significant amounts of water.
   Ingalls said the groundwater contamination is still being assessed.
   "We've done the remediation and gotten to an area where we feel really positive that it likely couldn't have contaminated the aquifer. The clean-up program project manager will be looking at the data when it's out and determine if further groundwater sampling and analysis is necessary," he said.
   Concern was also expressed about the health risks. Long-term exposure to low levels of formaldehyde can cause asthma-like respiratory symptoms and has also been linked to cancer, according to an OSHA fact sheet.
   D.B. Western's representative, Rick Martson, stated that at this time, "we do not believe there is a health risk."
   D.B. Western will hold a public meeting in Powell Butte on a yet to be determined date, although Martson said it will take place on one of three dates in February.