CHESAPEAKE — Homeowners in Wingfield Pointe say they just want their neighborhood to get back to normal.
Since last week, when a contractor digging a pool behind a home on Bluewing Lane unearthed more than two dozen 55-gallon drums, rumors, media attention and sparse information from authorities about the discovery have sparked concern in the close-knit subdivision.
About 100 Wingfield homeowners got together Tuesday night at the Deep Creek Community Center to share information and talk to lawyers.
“Everybody’s concerned with what’s going on,” said Craig Davis, vice president of the homeowners association. “We want to return our neighborhood to what we had two or three weeks ago as quickly as possible.”
The residents met in a closed-door session with lawyers from Motley Rice, a law firm based in Mount Pleasant, S.C. that specializes in environmental litigation. The discussion focused on homeowners’ rights, said Michael E. Elsner, a Motley Rice lawyer.
He said it is uncommon to find a subdivision built on a former dump.
“There are a number of sites around the country where there have been some waste disposal, but for the most part, these are not sites where people have homes,” Elsner said. “Right now, everyone wants to understand what materials are there and do they pose a health risk.”
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had a team at the home during the holiday weekend taking samples to determine what the barrels contain. The results could come back this week.
The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality said Tuesday that it expects to start digging up and removing all 20 to 30 chemical barrels from the affected back yard on Bluewing Lane by the end of the week.
The state has received “verbal approval” from the homeowner’s insurance company to pay the anticipated $40,000-to-$50,000 bill for the work, said Milt Johnston, a state waste manager overseeing the case. Johnston said crews Tuesday were sampling sediments and water from Deep Creek and the Gilmerton Cut to check if any chemical residues migrated there and caused pollution. There is no sign of that, “but we obviously want to make sure,” said Frank Daniel, regional director of the state DEQ.
The subdivision’s developer, William T. Wingfield of Virginia Beach, said last week that buyers of lots in parts of the neighborhood where there were environmental issues – about one-third to one-half of the subdivision – were notified about the property’s history.
As a condition of approving the subdivision in 1988, the city Planning Commission required that Wingfield give each buyer a “Buyer’s Awareness Package,” which would indicate part of the site had been a dump.
The city has the responsibility of enforcing the commission’s stipulations, but it remains unclear if city officials followed through to make sure buyers were informed.
Those who attended Tuesday night’s meeting said they never received any information about the former dump, Davis said.
Their next step, he said, will be to seek information from city officials.
Some new details about the site and its history were found Tuesday in a 1988 report conducted for the EPA by a private consultant, NUS Corp.
The report, released by state officials, describes a relatively small dump site wedged between Deep Creek and the Gilmerton Cut, measuring about 3 acres. The report says the site was used by the city of Chesapeake in 1966 and 1967, mostly for municipal garbage, and accepted other trash through various agreements to 1985.
Citing interviews with land owners and records, the report also says an estimated 50 drums of various paints from the Ford Motor Co.’s manufacturing plant in Norfolk were dumped at the landfill between 1968 and 1973.
The city’s Planning Commission initially rejected development plans at Wingfield Pointe because of concerns that Ford had disposed of old paints and solvents, which may have contained toxic materials. That fear was negated by a consultant hired by Wingfield, the engineering firm Hassell & Folkes, which testified that its team conducted field tests that concluded no toxic materials existed on the property. The Planning Commission, in turn, approved the development, in 1988.
The EPA’s report did not include any new independent sampling. It describes how consultants visited the property and observed rusting drums at three locations above ground.
Wingfield showed the consultants lab results, which said the drums contained some elevated levels of lead and chromium but none that exceeded federal standards.
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