GE PCB cleanup: Little Dry Creek

Excavation started this week on the north banks of Little Dry Creek, just west of Martha Berry Boulevard, to remove soil containing PCBs that were carried away from the GE plant, 1935 Redmond Circle. (Carolyn Grindrod, RN-T)

Excavation of soil contaminated from Rome’s closed General Electric plant started this week on the north Little Dry Creek floodplains, according to onsite officials Thursday. (map)

The dig is part of the Little Dry Creek Soil Removal Remediation project, started in 2009. Crews working for GE are removing and cleaning soil from the sides of the creek that was contaminated with potentially harmful polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, used at the plant on Redmond Circle.

Work is expected to be completed in November on the north side of the quarter-mile section that parallels Little Dry Creek Road in Summerville Park to the Martha Berry Boulevard bridge, according to oversight supervisor Jamie Taylor of Atlantic Coast Consulting.

Excavation on the south side of the creek is planned for Summer 2015, according to a press release from GE.

Taylor said that, for the past three weeks, his crews have been conducting land surveys and installing large steel sheet piles along the side of the creek, in preparation for the dig. “The sheet piles will prevent contaminated dirt and materials from getting into the creek,” he said.

As the crews dig, Taylor said, soil will be tested to check for PCB levels before the work-area is moved farther down the site.

Excavated soil will be taken to a Waste Management company facility licensed to handle contaminants, according the GE press release.

Once excavation is complete, GE plans to restore the area to the original elevations and will plant native trees, shrubs and grasses, said Taylor.

“Basically, when the plant was open many years ago, oils that contained PCBs leaked into the creeks and surrounding land,” Taylor added. “We are now working to remove the PCB contamination that deposited along the creek.”

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has identified PCBs as a potential carcinogen. They were used in the manufacturing of electrical transformers until the late 1970s. GE, which produced medium transformers at the West Rome plant, ceased operations in December 1997. 

According to the GE press release, stormwater collection and treatment systems installed in 1991 at the facility have been capturing and treating rainwater. “PCBs are no longer detected in the stormwater runoff from the GE site,” the press release states.

Similar digs to remove PCBs from the beds of Little Dry Creek and Horseleg Creek have been occurring since 2003.

The last excavation of Little Dry Creek — on the east side of Martha Berry Boulevard near the U.S. Post Office — took place in August of last year.