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The Environmental Protection Agency wants to remove the Tomah Armory Landfill Superfund site in Tomah from the National Priorities List, its catalogue of hazardous waste cleanup sites.

The Tomah Armory Landfill site was designated a Superfund site in 1987 after a preliminary assessment raised concerns that waste from the unlined landfill would seep out and contaminate groundwater. On-site lead contamination in groundwater samples was later detected at levels above federal thresholds for drinking water, but not in samples taken outside the Superfund site.

Once the Tomah Armory site is deleted from the Superfund list, groundwater monitoring for lead contaminants will no longer be required, a spokesperson for the EPA regional office said in an email.

The cap covering the waste pit will still need to be maintained and monitored because the contaminated material was left in place, the spokesperson said.

Groundwater sampling from the Tomah Armory site in 1993 detected lead contamination at levels above federal limits for drinking water. Lead is a potent neurotoxin, especially in children. Subsequent rounds of testing for lead outside the landfill boundaries did not detect lead above the federal limits.

Organic contaminants, including trichloroethene, also were detected at concentrations up to six times the maximum allowable amount. Trichloroethene, found in paint removers and degreasers, can damage the kidneys, liver and male reproductive system and may increase the risk of some cancers. The EPA concluded that the trichloroethene was coming from a source outside the landfill.

Soil contaminants include lead, arsenic, barium, beryllium, chromium, manganese and nickel.

In 1997, EPA decided no remedial actions were needed to clean up the site, but that groundwater monitoring would continue as needed. Groundwater near the site is not used for drinking water, and area residences are connected to municipal water systems.

The Tomah Armory Landfill was used by the city of Tomah as a landfill from 1950 until sometime between 1955 and 1960.

An unknown amount of waste was buried in pits six to eight feet deep and then filled back in with the original topsoil.

The Wisconsin Army National Guard bought 5.9 acres of land on the site in 1968 to conduct activities. The site is on 9.6 acres in the northeastern part of the city and is bordered by the former wastewater treatment facility, Mill Street and a residential area, Arthur Street and a mixed-use residential and business area, and Woodard Avenue, beyond which there are open fields and an apartment complex.

The state Department of Natural Resources agrees with EPA that the Tomah Armory site should be removed from the National Priorities List.

Tomah is also home to the Tomah Municipal Sanitary Landfill Superfund site and the delisted Tomah Fairgrounds Superfund site.

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Jennifer Lu is the La Crosse Tribune environmental reporter. You can reach her by phone at 608-791-8217 and by email jennifer.lu@lee.net.

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