Exxon Spill Special Committee News

Committee Chairs

  • Glen Sjoblom
  • Amy Stephens
Contact:  spill@gfca.org

Special Committee Role

The SPL Special Committee monitors, evaluates, and advocates for the high-quality cleanup of the ground contaminants resulting from the spill at the old Exxon station, and the protection of well water for all residents of Great Falls.  It works in conjunction with the property owner, the state Dept of Environmental Quality, and other groups and agencies.
  • 21 Dec 2015 3:16 PM | Anonymous
    Two and one half years ago, the GFCA Board commissioned its Special Committee on Groundwater Contamination, to ensure proper cleanup of gasoline chemicals that leaked from the former Exxon service station at 9901 Georgetown Pike in Great Falls.

    The Committee, comprised of GFCA, the Great Falls Business and Professional Association, and outside experts, engaged with the Virginia Department of Environmental Conservation (DEQ), Fairfax Petroleum Realty, the current property owner, and its environmental consultant company, Kleinfelder East, to address this cleanup.  The eventual plans developed for cleaning up the contamination was addressed in two GFCA Town Hall Meetings, numerous other technical meetings, and press statements issued to inform the public. 

    Ongoing cleanup has consisted of Vapor Extraction of the chemical from shallow unsaturated areas, and pumping and charcoal treatment of deeper groundwater.  As of this time, about a year after pumping began, over 3 million gallons of groundwater has been treated to remove the principal contaminant, Methyl Tertiary Butyl Ether (MTBE), and contamination levels at many monitoring points have been reduced to nearly the target values or End Points set by the DEQ.  Monitoring of private wells around the commercial areas has not detected contamination.  Some monitoring points persist, however, so the work continues.

    The Special Committee continues to review the results in quarterly monitoring reports.  A graph depicting the latest reported contamination levels is shown below.

  • 29 Aug 2015 2:31 PM | Anonymous

    The Great Falls Citizens Association Special Committee on Groundwater Contamination has reviewed the groundwater monitoring report issued for second quarter 2015 submitted by Fairfax Petroleum and its environmental engineering contractor, Kleinfelder East, to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.

    As specified in the Department of Environmental Quality Corrective Action Plan, pumping and treatment of groundwater from wells on the contaminated site began in August 2014, and has significantly reduced the concentration of Methyl Tertiary Butyl Ether (MTBE) in groundwater.  MTBE was the gasoline additive used under direction of the EPA prior to 2006, and some was released from the former Exxon Service station to groundwater.    

    Pumping has proceeded at approximately 5-8 gallons per minute, for a total of 2.7 million gallons.  The groundwater has been treated by air stripping and by charcoal filtration in a special treatment trailer, and the clean treated water is released to the storm drain.   Approximately 256 pounds of MTBE have been removed, including 27 pounds during the past 3 months of treatment.

    Concentrations at key deep wells remain at 4700 ppb at point RW-1, at 630 ppb at point MW-16D, 1400 ppb at point PW-1, and 940 ppb at point 20-D, which are still higher than the so called “deep end point” of 343 ppb.  The end point was specified by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality as a target concentration unlikely to result in detectable levels of 1 ppb, in any private wells.  Concentrations at Point 23D, to the south along Walker Road, have been greatly reduced to only 3 ppb, far below the end point there.  Point 20-D is 175 feet to the southeast from the original site, across Walker Rd, on the Great Falls Center.  Therefore, remaining deep concentrations at some locations must be reduced by a factor of approximately 10 before treatment can be considered complete.  Well W-1, a so-called “shallow well” located 140 feet from the site, has had concentrations of 8800 ppb, compared to the “shallow end point” of 5000 ppb.  Concentrations must be reduced by at least a factor of 2. 

    GFCA has commented to DEQ that the concentrations at all wells should be reduced to the lower end point, approximately 10 times, and that another recovery well, across Walker Road from the original site, is needed to accomplish treatment of the entire contamination plume.   Fairfax Petroleum committed to this in applying for the Special Permit for the TD Bank.   Similarly, the CAP Addendum committed to pumping from the east side of Walker Road as needed to meet the end points.

    The monitoring is done each quarter, and it appears that pumping will need to continue for at least another 4 quarters.  After the end points are reached, monitoring will continue for another 2 years to verify no contamination will ever reach private groundwater wells in the vicinity of the commercial center of Great Falls.    

    *                    *                    *

    The figure below depicts the deep MTBE groundwater concentrations distributed on the original site and on the site across Walker Road    

  • 01 Dec 2014 6:00 PM | Anonymous

    The GFCA held a public discussion on cleanup plans for the Exxon groundwater contamination during our Town Hall meeting on November 11. About 60 residents and business leaders attended and many questions were asked.

    Representatives of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), Mr. Alex Wardle and Mr. Randy Chapman, were helpful and stated that the DEQ has a zero tolerance policy on MTBE contamination in private wells.

    Representatives of Kleinfelder and Fairfax Petroleum, including Mr. Mark Steele, were not so reassuring, and struck many in attendance to be trying to justify a less-than-through cleanup with cost considerations predominant. 

    GFCA representatives reiterated our demand for a more robust and more complete cleanup.

    On December 1, 2014, Eric Knudsen, President of GFCA, sent a letter to the DEQ with comments on the Addendum to the Corrective Action Plan, with recommendations for strengthening the proposed cleanup strategy and cleanup levels proposed.  That letter is available here.

    We will inform readers further here, when the DEQ takes action on the Addendum. 

  • 03 Oct 2014 11:00 AM | Anonymous

    Today, the site owner's proposed cleanup plan addendum was released for public comment.  You can review it here:  2010-3028.RCAPA.20141002.pdf

    This will be carefully reviewed by GFCA and its Special Committee.  Come back here for further updates.

    ** Update:  the Virginia Dept of Environmental Quality will take Public Comment from Great Falls residents at the November 11th GFCA Town Hall meeting

  • 30 Sep 2014 6:00 PM | Anonymous

    On September 25, GFCA met with the owners of the contaminated old Exxon gas station site and reviewed their pending proposal for additional cleanup of the spreading underground water contamination created by the gasoline additive MTBE in groundwater.  The current contamination plume map can be viewed here.

    On September 30, GFCA sent a letter to the owners (Fairfax Petroleum) asking them to reevaluate a critical element of their proposal.  This letter is available here.

    GFCA has been monitoring efforts by the Fairfax Petroleum Company and its environmental consultant (Kleinfelder) to remediate groundwater contamination caused by the former Exxon Service Station at Walker Road and Georgetown Pike.  The attached map is from the latest Kleinfelder report, and shows the plume of methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) – a gasoline contaminant – that extends in the southeast direction under the Great Falls Center, and in the southern direction under the Crossroads, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo properties.  The contamination has not reached private wells used for drinking and bathing.    

    Kleinfelder recently presented its plans for cleanup proposing a small, single recovery well on the site, which would pump and treat groundwater at the rate of about 10 gallons per minute over the next several years. 

    After professional review of the proposal, the GFCA, the GFCA Special Committee on Groundwater Contamination, and their professional environmental consultant do not believe that the small proposed system will be effective at removing the contamination from the entire plume, which Fairfax Petroleum committed to do last December when it asked for a Special Exception from Fairfax County to construct a drive-in bank on the former Exxon Service Station Site.

    GFCA requested that Fairfax Petroleum and Kleinfelder evaluate a more reliable alternative involving three recovery wells with two located near the leading edges of the plume to the south and southeast, in addition to the proposed well location.  In GFCA’s opinion, this alternative will be more effective at drawing contamination more efficiently from all parts of the contamination plume and remove the contamination more thoroughly in a shorter period of time.  GFCA has formally requested that this alternative be evaluated and presented to the citizens of Great Falls, at a Department of Environmental Quality public meeting at the Great Falls Library, currently scheduled for November 11, 2014.    

  • 25 May 2013 11:09 AM | Anonymous

    The Environment, Parks and Trails Committee hosted the May 14th meeting to discuss the gasoline leak at the former Exxon gas station. This leak was revealed during a routine site survey several years ago. Although some immediate steps were taken to stop the leak, the actual remediation and clean-up of spilled gasoline has not been addressed yet.

    Kurt Kochan, Remediation Specialist, Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, spoke with the community about what actions have been taken, what still needs to be done, who is responsible, what plans are in place to complete the remediation, and the impacts, if any, to local residents and ground water. Carol Stone, a fractured limestone bedrock and water quality specialist from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, explained simple steps that residents can take to ensure a safer home and community water supply. To view Mr. Kochan's presentation, click here

    Once the new owner, Fairfax Petroleum, files the Corrective Action Plan, there will be a 60 day public comment period. It now appears that this comment period will likely occur during July/August, a time when many are away from the area or engaged in summer activities and not really following public announcements.

The opinions expressed on these pages are those of the authors and may not reflect the views of the Great Falls Citizens Association

Great Falls Citizens Association
PO Box 27  •  Great Falls, VA  •  22066 

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