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DEQ responds to public comments on dirt move

Of the Keizertimes

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality has responded to concerns regarding the potential trucking of contaminated dirt through Keizer.

From July 1 through Aug. 14, DEQ officials asked for public comment on the movement of dieldrin-tainted dirt from a development site in northeast Salem through Keizer to abandoned quarries northwest of Keizer.

Dieldrin is an insecticide developed as an alternative to DDT in the 1940s. It was used primarily on fruit, soil and seed. The U.S. Department of agriculture banned use of dieldrin in 1970, but it is a legacy pollutant that remains in the environment long after being introduced.

The planned path will take an estimated 14,000 truckloads of dirt past four schools, but after testing and observation by DEQ toxicologists, the risks appear to be low.

Excavation has already started on part of the development site – which will become an estimated 500 homes along with duplexes and apartments – and DEQ officials monitored air samples while the dirt was being moved. Dieldrin was not detected in any of the samples.

Anderson Geologic, the environmental consultant on the project, has called for temporary roadways to be constructed to minimize disturbance while the dirt is loaded and all trucks will be inspected as they leave the site with loose dirt being removed.

When as little as a pound of dieldrin enters the environment, the federal government’s National Response Center (NRC) must be notified immediately.

In response to questions about the impact of so many heavy trucks traveling the same route, DEQ officials said those issues would have to be taken up with local jurisdictions, like city and county governments.

To control dust en route to the quarries, the DEQ response is that the soil will be wetted down prior to travel and then trucks will be cleaned at the quarry site before returning to Salem.

Regarding why the soil has been labeled as “clean fill for farm use” despite the contamination, the DEQ responded that a residential gardener would come into contact with the soil much more frequently than a farmer on a tractor plowing a few times a year. Once moved to the quarry, the dirt will be used for hazelnut orchards, which the Oregon Department of Agriculture said poses less concern for food contamination. Crops grown in or closer to the soil, such as pumpkin, squash, zucchini or carrots, would be more problematic.

Review by hydrogeologists and licensed geologists determined that there was no potential for groundwater contamination because dieldrin binds tightly to soil.

“If (dieldrin) were soluble, it would have washed out of the soil and no longer be present.” the report stated.

While the process is moving forward, Nancy Sawka, a senior project manager with DEQ, said permits still need to be obtained from Marion County and the Oregon Department of State Lands. The Army Corps of Engineers may also need to issue a permit because one of the quarries is considered wetlands.