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Price Battery, Safety Light Proposed for Superfund List

Release Date: 9/23/2004
Contact Information: David Sternberg, (215) 814-5548

David Sternberg, (215) 814-5548

PHILADELPHIA - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today proposed the addition of two Pennsylvania hazardous waste sites to the Superfund National Priorities List (NPL). The newly proposed NPL sites are: Price Battery (Hamburg, Berks County, Pa.) and the Safety Light Corporation (Bloomsburg, Columbia County, Pa.)

The national priorities list is a national list of sites where hazardous contaminants could impact public health and/or the environment. NPL sites undergo a thorough investigation to determine the full nature and extent of the contamination. EPA or the parties responsible for the contamination then address whatever risks the sites pose to human health and the environment.

Once a site has been proposed for inclusion to the NPL, there is a 60-day comment period. A final decision on listing the sites will be made after EPA has evaluated and responded to all the public comments in writing. Nationwide, EPA is proposing to add 14 sites to the Superfund list.

Price Battery is an inactive lead battery recycling and manufacturing operation, located in South Hamburg, Berks County, Pa. As part of the battery recycling process, a secondary lead smelter operated on the property. Past operations at Price Battery have resulted in lead-contaminated soil on residential properties surrounding the property. The lead-contaminated soil may also be partially attributable to lead battery waste used as fill material throughout the Borough of Hamburg.

EPA is currently conducting a cleanup action at Price Battery which thus far includes the removal of the top one foot of lead-contaminated soil from 80 affected residential properties and the interior cleaning of 62 homes. Actions to address contamination at additional residential properties are ongoing. Approximately 235 properties have significantly elevated lead concentrations in soil.

Safety Light Corporation is located in South Centre Township near Bloomsburg, Columbia County, Pa. The property is bounded on the north by Old Berwick Road, on the east and west by residential areas, and on the south by the North Branch of the Susquehanna River.

Self-illuminated watches and instrument dials, smoke detectors, neutron sources, exit signs, and other merchandise containing radioactive materials were manufactured at the facility. These manufacturing activities contaminated surface and subsurface soil, surface water (lagoons and the Susquehanna River), sediment, and ground water. Analyses of ground water collected from nearby private wells have found radionuclides at elevated concentrations.

The most common radionuclides used in the manufacturing of the self-illuminating products were radium-226 and tritium. Waste generated at Safety Light includes solid and liquid wastestreams contaminated with radioactive materials, including radium-226, strontium-90, cesium-137, and tritium.

The Safety Light property currently is undergoing decommissioning. Decommissioning plans, cost estimates, and characterization reports have been prepared to determine the remedial measures required to return the property to unrestricted use. Based on cost estimates, the company is unable to finance the decommissioning, so the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has requested EPA assistance with the cleanup.

Under an EPA enforcement order, Safety Light Corp. has characterized radioactive and mixed waste materials stored in containers and drums and repackaged the waste for proper disposal. EPA’s cleanup is expected to remove the waste and address ground water, surface water and soil contamination on the property.