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Dangerous chemicals from former Hercules plant threaten creeks in Brunswick

Special to SEGAZINE

A city with more than its share of Superfund sites will likely see another big cleanup, albeit this one guided by the state.

The problem this time is in the groundwater beneath and adjacent to Pinova, a company that produces ingredients used in food products. The problem was already there, however, when Pinova bought the former Hercules specialty-resins facility from Ashland Inc. in 2010.

Samples from test wells have turned up troubling levels of a laundry list of chemicals — toluene, xylenes, acetone, carbon tetrachloride, chloroform and methyl chloride among them.

The most troubling, however, is the level of benzene and where it has been found, said Jim Brown, program manager of the Environmental Protection Division’s Land Protection Branch.

“The chemical we see most is benzene. It’s one of the chemicals that come in diesel fuel,’’ Brown said. “The contamination is off site, and we want to address that.”

Samples from monitoring wells have found benzene at 1,400 parts per billion in the shallow upper aquifer beneath the plant’s sprawling grounds. It has been found at lower levels along L Street to the south of the plant, north of the plant under a motel and east of U.S. 17 on the grounds of a former paint factory.

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