A photo caption yesterday incorrectly identified a man pictured with a story about liquid hazardous wastes in Culpeper, Va. He is William Chase, chairman of the Culpeper County Board of Supervisors. (Published 6/27/87).
CULPEPER, VA., JUNE 25 -- Families living near a rural site where buried containers are believed to contain liquid hazardous waste have been advised by the Virginia Department of Waste Management to drink bottled water until tests of on-site wells have been completed.
Environmental Protection Agency technicians, who say as many as 400 containers of liquid waste may be buried on the property, tested ground water from two wells on Charles Myers' farm in nearby Stevensburg, Va., in February and found trace levels of solvents, according to Linda Morse, a geologist with the Virginia Department of Waste Management.
During additional testing last Friday, EPA technicians accidentally punctured a barrel buried below the surface, bringing up a liquid "that smelled like paint thinner," Morse said. Two families were then advised by state officials not to drink water from wells on their property.
The state Department of Waste Management conducted water content tests Tuesday, and results are expected in the next few days, Morse said.
Myers, who has owned the property for about eight months, operates C&S Liquid Waste Disposal Plant Inc., a company that services septic tanks and disposes of restaurant grease. Myers said he leased the property from its previous owner, James Lamphier, operator of Jim's Liquid Waste, for three years before buying it last year.
Myers said he had moved his wife and two children off the property until the results of the water tests are known.
"The property was supposed to be clean," Myers said, adding that Lamphier had told him there were no barrels of liquid waste buried on the property.
"We're just sick over it," said Cheryl Neeley, a nearby neighbor. "I want the EPA to test my well . . . . Nobody's going to gamble with our lives and that's what we're talking about here."
Neighbors expressed concern that if waste leaks into the soil it might reach Jonas Run, a nearby stream from which their livestock drink.
The 67-acre site was the subject of a hazardous waste suit settled in the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond in August 1983. The suit found that Lamphier violated federal and state Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) regulations for the disposal and storage of hazardous waste.
According to court summaries, Lamphier transported and disposed of hazardous waste on his farm without proper permits and notification of state and federal authorities, as required under the act.
In March 1980, an investigator for the State Department of Health discovered several 55 gallon drums containing solvents buried on Lamphier's farm. Tests revealed that the substances were highly flammable and as such fit the definition for hazardous waste under the Resource and Recovery Act of 1976.
In June 1981, Lamphier's lawyer wrote to the health department saying that the materials in the barrels had been incinerated, court summaries say.
The Environmental Defense Fund Inc. and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, two private environmental groups, filed suit against Lamphier in October 1981, alleging that he violated the act notification and permit requirements. The state joined the suit in January 1982.
While the case was being appealed, a state-ordered site study "found no evidence of mass burial of drums."
In August 1983, the 4th Circuit upheld a lower court ruling that Lamphier had violated regulations for waste storage. According to state officials, there was no further cleanup needed, based on the findings of the site study.
According to William Chase, county board chairman of Culpeper County, a backhoe operator who had worked for Lamphier told Chase last fall that undiscovered barrels containing liquid waste were buried.
Chase said he asked Myers if he would allow state officials to inspect the property. Myers agreed and Chase said he called the Department of Waste Management.
In December, Linda Morse and a colleague went to the farm with metal detectors, she said. After tests for buried metal were positive, Morse called the EPA, which later estimated that as many as 400 barrels may be buried on the site.
Results of subsequent soil-gas tests, which are used to determine whether material from the barrels is leaking, are expected in within three weeks, said Ann Cardinal, an EPA spokeswoman.