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Martinsville, Virginia 24115
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Prillaman site gradually improving, property owner says

Thursday, August 8, 2013

By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin staff writer

Efforts to eliminate soil and ground water contamination at the old Prillaman Chemical Corp. site on Fisher Street in Martinsville are continuing.

Cleanup is “going quite well. We’ve made pretty good progress, but we’ve got a ways to go,” said Michael Gaudette, regional remediation manager for Univar, an Idaho-based company that now owns the property.

Gaudette on Wednesday did not know exactly how much contamination has been eliminated, but he said equipment installed to remove it is working well and he knows there is less contamination there now than a few years ago.

The public should not be overly concerned about the contamination since it is not affecting drinking water, he indicated.

Univar is asking the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to modify a corrective action permit for the site. Gaudette said the modification basically is a request for the DEQ to make final decisions on how the contamination should be removed.

Procedures already implemented have been considered “interim measures,” Gaudette said.

A public meeting on the request will be held from 7-9 p.m. Aug. 21 at the former Henry County courthouse in uptown Martinsville.

Univar bought the plant in 2001 and closed it two years later. Gaudette said the company has no plans to reopen it.

Samples taken from 2003 and 2005 revealed a significant amount of soil and water contamination, a state environmental official said at the time.

Gaudette said the contamination included chlorinated solvents used in dry cleaning processes as well as toluene and xylene. Those strong compounds are found in many household products such as paints, paint thinners, glues, wood stains and fingernail polish. They are poisonous when swallowed or if their vapors are inhaled, a National Institutes of Health website shows.

However, the DEQ has said that people in the area who are not exposed to the contamination would not be at risk for health problems. It recommended that people not trespass on the property or play in, or collect water from, a stream near the site.

Because residents and businesses nearby are connected to the city’s water supply, their drinking water should be safe, the DEQ has said.

A public notice shows that Univar will continue operating a ground water aeration trench and a soil vapor extraction system installed to remove contamination, plus continue to monitor water for signs of contamination.

“For the most part,” Gaudette said, aeration allows oxygen to get into the ground to break down the chemicals.

“We’re going to continue to do what we’re doing, evaluate it periodically to determine if we need to do anything else,” he said, and if so determine what needs to be done at that point.

If further action becomes necessary, Univar will propose ideas to the DEQ. The state agency then will decide whether it agrees with those ideas. If not, the agency will determine what needs to be done, according to Gaudette.

He described decisions on how cleanup should occur as “a back-and-forth type of thing” between the company and the state.

Right now, Univar has no plans to install any new equipment at the site, Gaudette said.

He said he could not estimate how many years it will take to rid the site of all contamination.

More information on the company’s permit modification request is online at, as well as in an administrative record that can be viewed at the Blue Ridge Regional Library on East Church Street in Martinsville.

Gaudette said the Aug. 21 public meeting will include a presentation about the cleanup, remarks by DEQ officials and a time for people to ask questions.

Comments from the public will influence whether DEQ approves the permit modification, the public notice shows.

Anyone wanting to submit comments can do so until Sept. 23 by contacting Angela Alonso at DEQ’s Office of Waste Permitting and Compliance by fax at (804) 698-4327, by mail at 629 E. Main St., Richmond, Va. 23219 or email at Comments must include names, addresses and telephone numbers of the people making the comments.

Gaudette added that he thinks questions from the public at the meeting will be taken into account much the same as submitted comments.


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