Compass/CCI won the contract to clean up PCB and dioxin contamination at Ward Transformer, an 11-acre Superfund site near the Raleigh-Durham airport and Brier Creek Commons Shopping Center. (See “Incinerator likely for Ward PCB site in Wake,” Dec. 26, 2006.)

Cleanup costs aren’t being disclosed until after a contract is signed, but are estimated to be between $5-$10 million. Eight companies identified as potentially responsible for the contamination, including Progress Energy, chose the contractor and will share the cost.

The cleanup is expected to be complete in late 2008; however, the EPA is also planning for a long-term remedy to deal with any lingering contamination, which has spread downstream to Lake Crabtree, Little Brier Creek and Brier Creek Reservoir.

Compass/CCI will use direct-fired thermal desorption to remove PCBs from the soil; scrubbers and baghouses scour contaminants from gases emitted through stacks. Although no ash is produced, this type of desorption has been criticized by some scientists and environmentalists for its similarity to incineration and its risk of dioxin emissions, which are dangerous even at very low levels.

Company officials say dioxin levels would be below the EPA’s detection levels.

The companies could have chosen indirect-fired thermal desorption, in which no PCBs are destroyed on site. Contaminated liquid is shipped off-site to an approved hazardous waste facility.

The EPA preliminarily has approved a $50,000 grant for the Neuse River Foundation to conduct independent research about the site and contaminated waterways.