Chemical cleanup continues

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By Christopher Brooke, Reporter

HILLSVILLE — An Old Pipers Gap Road business that deconstructed computers and used acid to reclaim the gold used on circuit boards was not supposed to have any hazardous materials on site, according to the contract with his landlord.

Carroll County officials declared a local emergency as Environmental Protection Agency contractors began to assess and clean up the many open and leaky containers of hydrochloric and nitric acid once used to strip the precious metals from old computers.

In all, 300 barrels of hazardous materials were found in six box trailers.

Jim Dixon owns the building and the land that were being used, which he had leased to Gary Parsons for the business, now defunct.

He's been trying to get Parsons out of the building for a year or two, but Parsons continues to battle cancer, so Dixon let him go for about six or eight months.

"We tried to work with him the best we could, then we noticed the barrels accumulating," Dixon said.

Something had to be done, and Parsons agreed to a court judgment to be off the property by Sept. 16

When Parsons couldn't get it done by then, Dixon sent crews down to help deal with the barrels.

Dixon believes that a person Parsons had allowed to live in a mobile home on the property — but had to leave when the business closed — called the authorities to report the hazardous materials.

Dixon has discussed the situation with the EPA crews onsite and he has confidence that the acid at the site will not pose a problem.

He doesn't know that any of the barrels were buried, nor has he heard that there's any significant contamination. Dixon noted that the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality alone took 300 samples from the site.

When he leased the building to Parsons, Dixon said he did not know the man planned to use acid on the computers as part of the process. "I thought they'd just take it apart."

The lease that Parsons signed did not allow him to use harsh chemicals, Dixon said. "We had in our contract he wasn't supposed to have hazardous materials there."

Dixon has not seen or talked to Parsons since the EPA moved in.

In the meantime, On-Scene Coordinator Mike Towle of EPA said the crews at the site have started draining the acid from the barrels and loading it into tanks.

Towle expects to get those tanks removed from the site by this week.

Results of soil and water testing from the site could also be available this week.