EPA Remedial Project Manager Peter Johnson has said the dross and saltcakes left over from old smelting processes react with water, releasing heat and ammonia gas. Smoky Mountain Smelting’s toxins have flowed through groundwater into a tributary of Flenniken Branch. Vestal community residents who live nearby have raised concerns about that water reaching the fishing areas at I.C. King Park and eventually the Tennessee River. In 2010, the Smoky Mountain Smelting site ended up on the federal Superfund list due to its contaminated soil, sediments and surface water.
The capped area was one of Smokey Mountain Smelters’ waste piles, but Johnson stated in an email it now includes waste from another waste pile that was on the site. The EPA, not Caleb Properties is leading the cleanup of waste into this new capped landfill. However, Johnson said Caleb Properties can’t do anything that breaks into the capped area, and it can’t dig any wells for the site’s groundwater.
Johnson stated the EPA will publish requirements on how to maintain the cap after workers finish its construction. The EPA will also have to review every five years to make sure its remedy still protects human health and the environment.
The cap will consist of a gas collection layer, Geosynthetic Clay Liner (GCL), a polyethylene liner, geosynthetic drainage layer, 18 inches of clean cover soil, six inches of topsoil, and “seed and/or mulch.” Johnson stated.
Johnson at a February meeting, said he and his agency wanted development on the site, even with the waste still on it.
“We don’t want this to remain fenced and unused,” he said.