Berlin Park Water Testing Planned, As Investigation Continues

Berlin Park Water Testing Planned, As Investigation Continues
A pond at Heron Park is pictured when it was still open to the public. File photo by Chris Parypa

BERLIN – Groundwater testing is expected to take place at Heron Park as the Maryland Department of the Environment continues its investigation into last year’s chemical spill.

More than six months after a chemical spill was identified at Heron Park, town officials said investigations into the incident by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) were still underway. MDE this month asked the town to have groundwater testing done at the property.

“We are told the water testing and results will be completed within just a few weeks,” Mayor Gee Williams said. “The town will certainly announce the results, whatever they are, as soon as they are available.”

The town spent close to $300,000 on cleanup after a chemical spill was identified in the midst of demolition work at Heron Park in June. Officials confirmed early on that MDE and EPA were investigating the spill.

According to Town Administrator Jeff Fleetwood, the town received communication from MDE a little more than a week ago stating that the agency had reviewed the report submitted by Chesapeake Environmental Services, the company the town hired to handle the cleanup.

“It said… ‘the report indicates that the concentrated caustic liquid that was contained in the subsurface concrete pit and the contaminated soil were removed and the groundwater that entered had an acceptable PH,’” said Fleetwood, quoting the letter. “’The emergency response actions to remediate the detected caustic material are deemed to be acceptable…’”

Fleetwood said he considered that good news. He added that MDE did, however, want the town to have some groundwater testing done at the park. He said the town had contracted EA Engineering to handle the work.

“That work should begin in the next seven to 10 business days,” he said.

Williams is hopeful that the testing will signal the end of MDE’s investigation.

“Once the results are compiled MDE will inform the town if any further remediation is necessary, or if we are all clear to go on MDE signing off on this investigation,” Williams said.

As far as the EPA review, Fleetwood said that was ongoing. He said a contract division of the agency would visit in February but would primarily be reviewing whether the town had followed the proper protocol in the wake of the spill.

Though the park remains closed to the public, Fleetwood said that in recent weeks town staff had managed to clean up much of the debris left over from the interrupted demolition work.

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.