Hopewell Culture
Administrative History
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Maintenance of Mounds and Park Infrastructure (continued)

Maintenance Challenges

Following passage of the Clean Air Act and other environmental legislation, the monument discontinued its practice of open-air burning to dispose of garbage and refuse in 1965. By contracting for periodic removal by a local refuse collector, it effectively reduced the constant threat of fire on monument lands. [26] As recycling programs gained popularity and landfill space began becoming scarce, monument employees voluntarily began an aluminum recycling program among the staff. With a state-mandated twenty-five percent reduction in solid waste for landfills set for 1992, Maintenance Worker Foreman Jon Casson began planning in late 1989 to launch a voluntary recycling program to include the public by installing containers to recycle aluminum, plastic, and glass. To the delight of park staff, the four-slotted recycling containers became a regular stop for school groups with teachers using the opportunity to discuss recycling and the environment. [27]

Ensuring water quality standards became a maintenance task in the early 1970s when the monument began purchasing its water from the state-leased Chillicothe Correctional Institute. Although the state as part of its lease obligations began monitoring the Camp Sherman-era well water source, the National Park Service acted to ensure public safety at the monument by taking monthly samples alternately from the visitor center, residence, and maintenance building and forwarded them to the Ohio Department of Health. Typically free from bacteriological agents, the water itself proved to be of poor quality with high concentrations of iron, sulphur, alum, and other minerals. Water used in the residence had to be run through an iron filter and a conditioning unit, but even then it remained unsuitable for cooking and drinking. Maintenance workers had to obtain bottled water from Chillicothe's municipal supply and transport it to the residence and visitor center for consumptive uses. The neighboring Veteran's Administration medical center built its own million-dollar treatment plant in hopes of improving water quality.

By the late 1970s, upgrading of Mound City Group's aging water system included a new iron filter, chlorinator, and replacement of the piping system. [28] With increased usage, the Chillicothe Correctional Institute began experiencing difficulty in sustaining stable pressure. Low pressure invited bacterial contamination, while high pressure burst valves and other parts along the aging system. Addressing the water problem came in a cooperative partnership with the Veterans Administration during the 1980s (see Chapter 5). By the mid-1990s, NPS connected to the Ross Correctional Institute's water system.

A 1976 operations evaluation lauded the park's maintenance division as "exceptional" and noted that "Even in the off season all facilities almost sparkle." The staff played a key role in presenting a professional, top-quality park operation to the visiting public, thereby achieving and maintaining high agency standards. To provide equal accommodation to all visitors, maintenance staff ensured parkwide handicapped accessibility by modifying restrooms and all doorways. They also constructed a specially-designated handicapped parking area close to the visitor center entrance and installed a wheelchair-friendly picnic table in the outdoor luncheon area. [29]

The very existence of an in-house maintenance function at Mound City Group National Monument, like at other parks throughout the national park system, came into question during the end of President Ronald Reagan's first term. Heralded by the anti-big government Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and its Circular A-76, each park undertook an A-76 review of all grounds maintenance and custodial services in 1984 to ascertain the most cost-effective means to perform "commercial or industrial activities." Following A-76 guidelines, agencies were mandated to determine the cost-effectiveness of performing these functions using federal employees or through contracts with the private sector.

At Mound City Group, the dreaded A-76 review began on March 20, 1984, following notification to three potentially affected employees and in close consultation with the Midwest Regional Office. In submitting his management study to Regional Director Charles H. Odegaard, Superintendent Apschnikat asked that his park be exempted from A-76 requirements. Apschnikat declared, "small parks like Mound City need a continuing uniformed in-house maintenance presence that is qualified, versatile, able to adapt quickly to emergency conditions or changing priorities, sensitive to cultural and natural resource concerns, and able to meet and deal with people." With the potential loss of his skilled workers, Apschnikat feared much flexibility would be lost. He believed the most efficient and cost-effective means remained with an in-house maintenance force. Loss of that capability would result in an inability to fulfill the monument's mission. [30]

Thanks to two years of intensive lobbying by the National Parks and Conservation Association and other groups, the deleterious impacts of OMB Circular A-76 were mitigated through an amendment attached to a Senate bill revising the Volunteers in the Parks Act of 1969. Signed into law on October 4, 1984, the legislation exempted the National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Bureau of Land Management in local unit operations involving ten full-time equivalencies (FTE) or less. Congress called on the agencies to implement a maintenance management system (MMS), first called for by a June 1, 1984 General Accounting Office report. MMS, involving computerized calculations for a diverse array of work functions, was intended to streamline and improve federal maintenance operations. The data collected in 1984 helped serve as baseline data for the monument's MMS, in operation in 1989. Ultimately, the exercise did help increase the effectiveness and efficiency of Mound City Group's already superior maintenance workforce. [31]

A May 1979 inspection of the visitor center's ceiling by the Ohio Department of Health revealed the presence of 3.18 percent chrysotile asbestos by weight. Although the inspectors found the ceiling to be in good condition and therefore not presenting an immediate health hazard, their report recommended that the maintenance staff monitor the acoustic plaster ceiling closely. As the material aged, they warned the binding capacity within the plaster would begin to lose its cohesiveness and fail, causing a dangerous release of air-borne asbestos fibers. By maintaining a coating of quality paint to the ceiling, the cancer-causing fibers would be held in place and not pose any threat to employees or visitors. [32]

Ill at ease because of the potential health threat, Ken Apschnikat engaged the services of a Columbus architectural and engineering firm in 1982 to develop alternative strategies regarding the asbestos problem. Apschnikat's discomfort centered on the building's flat metal roof that had a history of leaks. Penetrating water seemingly could not be stopped, and it posed a constant threat after each rainfall of causing the asbestos-laden plaster ceiling's collapse. While the 1979 state inspection involved only one room, three other rooms needed to be tested. On March 17, 1983, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) conducted a health hazard evaluation by collecting samples of ceiling plaster and tap water. Results of the NIOSH industrial hygiene survey found asbestos air concentrations ranging from 0.01 to 0.02 fibers per cubic centimeter over an eight-hour period. While NIOSH's recommended criteria level came at 0.1, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) high threshold standard came at 2.0. No hazardous traces were found in the tap water, and three of four bulk samples contained chrysotile asbestos ranging from two to sixty percent. In essence, the NIOSH report found no immediate health hazard existed. [33]

quarters building
Figure 66: The monument's only quarters building, home to all but one Mound City Group National Monument superintendent, presented maintenance workers with a wide range of problems, including high radon gas levels. (NPS/Fred Fagergren, June 1977)

While committed to maintaining a good painted surface to ensure the ceiling's continued integrity and mandating sustained monitoring, the Midwest Regional Office advised that any sudden release of fibers be immediately reported to the region's safety officer. Further, it recommended the park program for funding to remove and dispose of the hazardous material and install a new ceiling. Almost a decade passed before a two-inch May 1992 rainfall resulted in numerous leaks that allowed water to saturate sizeable areas of the ceiling. While it did not fail, and maintenance workers warily monitored it during the drying out period, emergency testing revealed no hazardous levels of asbestos. The event nonetheless expedited plans to eradicate the problem permanently, accomplished as part of the roof replacement and visitor center renovation effort of the early 1990s. [34]

Another potentially hazardous health condition emerged in the mid- to late 1980s. On December 3, 1986, Associate Director for Park Operations Stanley T. Albright called on all regional consultants from the U.S. Public Health Service to coordinate a nationwide testing program for radon gas in employee and concessioner housing. Radon commonly seeped into buildings through subsurface cracks and tended to concentrate in ever-higher levels until properly ventilated. Medical experts warned that sustained exposure to elevated radon levels could result in lung cancer in humans. The National Park Service contracted with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)'s laboratory in Montgomery, Alabama, to evaluate samples from park housing. Mound City Group's single test canister arrived in late January 1987. Park maintenance collected the air sample from the superintendent's residence and forwarded the canister to the EPA.

Test results on March 2, 1987, revealed the residence not only exceeded the maximum contaminant levels for radon, but it had the dubious honor of being ranked at the highest exposure level in the ten-state Midwest Region: 39.3 picoCuries per liter (pCi/l). The measurement constituted nearly ten times the safe benchmark reading of 4.0 pCi/l. Follow up testing for the residence's first floor and basement, as well as the maintenance building's basement brought an even higher radon reading of 46.5 pCi/l in the residence's basement and 11.5 pCi/l in the first-floor bedroom. Readings in the maintenance building's basement came in at 24.0 and 25.5 pCi/l.

In May 1987, Ken Apschnikat requested emergency assistance from Omaha to mitigate the radon gas problem. Apschnikat's initial discussions with U.S. Public Health Consultant Bert Mitchell revealed no funding or properly trained personnel to plan and implement a mitigation and monitoring program. In the meantime, the Apschnikat family's use of the basement ceased except for the laundry area. [35]

In late August 1987, Radon Remediation Consultant Thomas L. Sinclair, an employee of Effigy Mounds National Monument in Iowa, arrived at Mound City Group for an inspection accompanied by U.S. Public Health Service Consultant Bert Mitchell. Sinclair recommended all "hot spots" be sealed, including floor drains and cracks, wall cracks, and utility openings where subterranean gas could penetrate. If these and other measures did not work, Sinclair recommended demolishing the house and its foundation, and replacing them with a specially-designed subslab with proper ventilation and drainage systems. Another option would be to cease the structure's use as a quarters and convert it to administrative and storage purposes. Human use of the building would then be on a more limited basis. [36]

Actual radon mitigation work came in late August 1988 following Ken Apschnikat's transfer to Manassas National Battlefield Park, Virginia. Vacating the structure permitted its conversion from a residence to use as a park headquarters and administrative office building. Effigy Mounds maintenance worker Timothy Mason performed the mitigation measures in the two affected areas and radon levels declined dramatically to within safe levels at the new headquarters. Radon levels in the maintenance building's basement, however, continued at unhealthy readings, resulting in its discontinued use as a routine work area. [37] Radon monitoring remains a frequent activity.

Extensive road rehabilitation took place in the 1980s and 1990s. To eliminate a safety hazard for employees by having two roads entering State Highway 104 within a few yards of one another, a connector road in 1983 linked Portsmouth Road with the visitor center entrance road. In 1991, a deceleration lane to enter the park from State Highway 104, paving the formerly gravel base of Portsmouth Road, repaving all remaining roads and lots, and adding a parking lot for the administrative headquarters building were accomplished. Workers also eradicated the former outlet of Portsmouth Road onto State Route 104. For the first time, park roads met National Park Service standards. [38]


Last Updated: 04-Dec-2000