On April 21 at 7:30 p.m. the Chestertown Council will hear a plan from Shore Regional Health consultants to inject the chemical, Ivey-Sol, into the groundwater at Chester River Hospital — to clean up the remains of a 25-year old heating oil spill that was estimated at over 100,000 gallons. Town Manager Bill Ingersoll has said the spill was closer to 150,000 gallons.
The components in Ivey-Sol remain unknown because of a patent — and the plan is experimental because it has never been done this close to a town’s drinking water supply, said Chestertown Utilities Manager Bob Sipes. The Maryland Department of the Environment has called the plan a “Pilot Study.”Sipes raised concerns last fall that prompted the town council to retain an outside attorney and seek an injunction, which then prompted the Maryland Department of the Environment to have Shore Regional Health delay the injections.
“If you don’t know everything that is in the chemical, you can’t test for it, and we won’t know if it ends up in the drinking water,” Sipes said.
Sipes said the system of pumps and recovery wells in place since the early 90s has successfully kept the oil from migrating off site — 1,500 feet down hill towards the town’s drinking wells.
The injections are designed to liquefy oil trapped in the sand formations so it can be more easily pumped out — but Sipes is concerned that once liquified, the oil and the Ivey-sol could escape quickly beyond the ability of the pumps to keep any contaminants from moving downgrade towards the drinking wells.
He also said a recent meeting with MDE and Shore Health officials on Tuesday, Apr. 15, gave him nothing to allay his concerns from last year and said a promise of cooperation and progress meetings with the hospital was broken. He also said the makers of Ivey-sol reneged on a commitment to disclose the compounds in the chemical — so he could test to see if it ever showed up in the water.
“We pledge to work cooperatively, with open communication with the Town, MDE, and other experts through resolution,” said Kenneth Kozel, CEO of UM Shore Regional Health last October.
In an email on Monday, MDE Deputy Director of Communications Jay Apperson contradicted Sipes and said there was never an expectation of meetings or communications with the town on the proposed project.
“The project was not going to go forward until MDE responded to those questions and any other remaining concerns,” Apperson said. “For that reason, MDE did not have an expectation that the hospital would communicate with the town on the proposed project during that time. That said, MDE became aware that the hospital had not provided monthly and quarterly monitoring well sample results to the Town, and in March we again directed the Hospital to do so and otherwise copy the Town on all reports, letters and plans.”
The injections are Shore Regional Health’s attempt to retire a $50,000 annual expense of maintaining the current remediation system.
Mayor Chris Cerino said he wanted to withhold comment until the experts have presented the plan on Apr. 21.