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College promises to clean Hiram pond

By Heather Condley Record-Courier staff writer Published: August 24, 1997 12:00 AM

Richard and Patricia Fay, who own about 3 acres of land on Wakefield Road near the college, found out in 1995 from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and the college that runoff from Colton Hall, one of the college's science buildings, was leaking into their pond.

When an odor was detected in Colton, college officials discovered that a sump pump in the basement of the building that was collecting water from sinks and drains had never been attached to the village's sewer system, although it has since been connected.

The Ohio EPA was called in to do dye tests to determine that the water was indeed flowing into the Fays' pond and further tests concluded that there was some mercury contamination.

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While the Fays have hired an attorney, he said that the problem has not gotten to the point where attorneys need to be involved.

"We're taking it one step at a time, I'm sure we'll reach an agreement," he said. "(The college has) been our neighbors for 45 years."

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When the college and its consultants did the initial sediment and water testing of the pond, they also tested other locations between the college and the Fay property, including a stream that flows near the property.

The tests concluded that the water in the pond is clean, but that parts of the sediment on the pond's bottom were contaminated.

The pond is the focus of the testing and proposed clean up because the EPA found that the contamination is isolated to the Fay's property, although another round of testing will include tributaries of the pond.

Although no one is sure how long the contamination had been going on, Cragel said that the college has been pretty prudent since the 1950s .

"Because mercury is so expensive, the college mostly recycles it," Cragel said. "Anyway, this is inorganic mercury, but until we prove that the EPA will be concerned."

Cragel said inorganic mercury is not as potent as other types.

Cragel added that large amounts of sediment would have to be ingested for it to be harmful.

"This is a lot less mercury here than in Lake Erie, and they say you can eat fish from Lake Erie once a week," he said.

While some residents may be concerned about health risks, Fay said he isn't worried and that his main concern is that the problem gets fixed, which may include draining and digging out the pond.

"We have fish in the pond, we have zillions of frogs and turtles. I assumed everything was all right. Maybe if we had been eating the fish (I'd be concerned about my health)," Fay said. "I'm just concerned about getting it fixed."

Before the college begins the cleanup however, there will be another round of testing to determine exactly where the mercury lies and so the college can look at exactly what their options are.

"We'll test above and beyond the pond to its tributaries. (The consultants) will do a variety of tests including a toxicity clip (to determine toxicity)," Cragel said. "The sediment poses no problem, but we want to remove the mercury. Period."

Cragel said that so far the college has talked with two companies that have submitted proposals for the cleanup but the quotes were expensive, anywhere from $300,000 to $800,000, depending on how much work is needed and how the materials are classified.

While rumors are circulating that the college is dragging its feet on the clean-up, Fay insists that he understands the hold-up.

"I understand the situation with red tape and delay. I'm not putting the blame on anyone," he said.

All of the proposals have specified that Fay's property be returned to its original condition, Cragel said.

"Mr. Fay is the final word on this," Bryan said. "The cleanup will be to

his satisfaction. Period."

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