Excavated dirt that an Ohio-based construction crew moved recently from the site of a controversial sewer project in Minden to a city park in Oak Hill does not contain any PCB contamination, an Oak Hill official said.

Gov. Jim Justice Monday ordered city officials to halt construction of the sewer line until the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) releases a report on findings of recent PCB testing in Minden and nearby Concho. The report is expected later this month or in March. 

Minden hosts Shaffer's Equipment Co., a site that is heavily contaminated by the industrial chemical and probable human carcinogen PCB.  Recent testing showed  PCB contamination throughout Minden, and additional test results are expected in the final report.

Thrasher Engineering and subcontractor Tribute Contracting of South Point, Ohio, were excavating a site in Minden when Justice made the order. Oak Hill City Manager Bill Hannabass said Wednesday that Tribute crews dumped dirt from the excavated site in Minden onto city property near a local park.

"Tribute hauled out what they dug and trucked in better material to cover the pipe," Hannabass stated in a letter to the Oak Hill mayor and other officials. "The hauled material was dumped behind Collins Park."

The sewer project cuts through a section that shows PCB contamination, but Hannabass said Monday that work crews had not yet reached the contaminated site when the governor ordered them to stop.

Hannabass said West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) agents came to the site after citizens complained that the city was operating an open dump.

"I spent time with a DEP inspector after he received complaints about the city having an open dump at Collins," Hannabass wrote. "DEP did not have any findings after inspecting Collins Park and will issue a report that I fully expect to state that.

"I also received inquiries from the health department after they received a complaint."

There are five contracts related to the sewer project. Triton Construction, one contractor on the sewer upgrade, independently contracted with Terradon Corporation, which then hired REI Consultants Inc. to test for PCBs.

Hannabass provided a photo showing the Arbuckle sewer plant in Minden and the test results of four locations where the dirt was excavated, along with test results from Terradon which showed no PCB contamination at the site where Tribute crews had already excavated.

The sewer project was under way when Justice ordered construction to temporarily cease.

Minden residents had petitioned Oak Hill officials several times to halt the project until final EPA results were available. They said they were scared that disturbance of the soil would spread PCB throughout their community. 

Collins Park is located behind Collins Middle School, a school that was closed in 2015 after state officials condemned it due to unsafe structural conditions. 

Fayette Superintendent of Schools Terry George said the CMS building is currently used by career and technical education students.

"We do have a CTE program over there," George said. "I do have concerns if they're moving dirt, but from my understanding, this has not taken place on property that has been contaminated by possible PCBs.

"I'm not an authority," he added. "And there's been no dirt put on our property."

Tribute Contracting pulled out of the sewer line project in December, citing concerns for the wishes of Minden residents and fears of PCB exposure on their workers. Their crew later returned to the project, after a report presented by head contractor Thrasher showed there was virtually no risk to workers' health due to PCB exposure in the levels contained at the proposed sewer site.

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