Otterbein University plans for big clean-up of contaminated soil

WESTERVILLE, OH (WCMH) – The Ohio EPA preferred plan for remediation of a 40-acre site involves removing several thousand cubic yards of contaminated soil. The plan for the former Kilgore Company site on N. Spring Rd is being presented in a public hearing Tuesday evening.

The site is owned by Otterbein University and is attached to the university’s Austin E. Knowlton Center for Equine Science.

The contamination dates back to the 1940’s when Kilgore manufactured flares and other incendiary and explosive devices for the Department of Defense.

The property was gifted to Otterbein in the early 1960s after the Department of Defense declared the site clean.

Subsequent inspections have found unacceptable contamination of inorganic metals including lead, arsenic, cadmium and strontium.

Spokeswoman Dina Pierce said the EPA preferred plan is to remove contaminated soil from hotspots and make the property safe for the long term.

“Some soil and sediment would be removed,” Pierce said. “It would also include deed restrictions that will restrict use of the property in the future to recreation and commercial types activities – basically non-residential.”

The Kilgore site consists of 110 acres, 70 of which are used by Otterbein for the school’s equine science center.

The property line for the remaining 40 acres butts up against a couple dozen homes.

Al Quagliotti, Otterbein’s Environmental Project Manager, says the site has actually undergone a number of cleanups over the years and does not pose a health risk to neighbors. “We’ve never found a risk to the neighbors or anything going off the site,” Quagliotti. “So that the neighboring properties have been and will be safe going forward.”

Suzette Machuta’s property backs up to the contaminated land. She’s lived there for 18 years. “We would like it left just the way it is,” Machuta says.

 She’s concerned that clean up crews might stir up more problems.

“Am I going to be breathing contaminated dusty air,?” Machuta asks. “I’m going to be sitting out on my deck and you’re going to be cleaning it in hazmat suits. What protects me?”

Tuesday’s hearing is scheduled for 6pm at the Austin E. Knowlton Center for Equine Science at 600 N. Spring Rd.