State environmental quality team presents RTN site findings to skeptical neighbors


By Denise Dunbar |

Representatives from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality met with a room full of concerned residents at city hall on Tuesday afternoon to discuss a report on pollutants at the Robinson Terminal North site.

The meeting, held in the Sister Cities Room on city hall’s first floor, drew so many concerned neighbors that extra chairs had to be set up to accommodate everyone.

Alex Wardle from VDEQ presented findings on petroleum contamination at the site. While Wardle and fellow VDEQ representatives Randy Chapman and Vince Maiden explained that soil samples had been taken at 60 locations across the property, and that numerous wells had not turned up significant levels of any toxic substance, residents were unconvinced.

While the exchange remained civil on both sides, numerous residents expressed concern that the testing wells were not sufficient. No testing wells were located along the line of the northeastern flow of an underground creek bed, nor were there any at the point where the nearby sewer outfall flows into Oronoco Bay. Wardle said the state would add at least one more well to test for contaminants in the path of the groundwater flow. He said if contaminants were found there, additional wells would be added.

The RTN site is listed as an archived Superfund site of the federal Environmental Protection Agency. A number of industrial uses on the location, dating back more than 100 years, have left behind a cocktail of toxic substances, including arsenic and dioxin, as well as petroleum. In the case of dioxin, only trace amounts have been found.

RTN was, most recently, a Washington Post Company storage terminal. Before that the property was home to R.H. Bogle Company, which used pesticides to control weeds along railroad tracks, and, before that, housed Standard Oil tanks that date back to 1907.

Current property owners CityInterests and Rooney Properties had planned to build a hotel, residential and retail space on the site, but instead have put the property up for sale.