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EPA Completes Cleanup at Whitmoyer Superfund Site - Former toxic waste site transformed into community asset
Release Date: 6/18/2002
Contact Information: Bonnie Smith, 215-814-5543
Bonnie Smith, 215-814-5543
MYERSTOWN, Pa. – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has completed cleanup construction at the Whitmoyer Laboratories Superfund Site in Lebanon County, marking an important milestone in returning this once highly toxic waste site to beneficial reuse.
The site is being turned into a park, baseball and soccer fields, and a scenic walking trail surrounded by over 4,000 newly-planted trees, shrubs and plants. Approximately 1,500 people live within a one-mile radius of the site, and a grade school stands half a mile away.
Construction completion means that all physical construction has been completed and no human health or environmental threats remain. This is the 70th Superfund site cleaned up in Pennsylvania -- nearly two-thirds of all the Superfund sites in the state.
“Thanks to the cooperation between EPA, the potentially responsible parties, and our state and local partners, this Superfund site no longer poses a threat to the residents of Lebanon County and is being redeveloped for recreational reuse, ” said Donald S. Welsh, regional administrator for the Agency’s mid-Atlantic region. “The Whitmoyer site is a perfect example of how we at EPA believe environmental protection and, ultimately, local reuse of these once-highly contaminated eyesores go hand in hand.”
“This site will be a real asset to Jackson Township and Lebanon County,” Pa. Department of Environmental Protection Secretary David E. Hess said. “Not only will the site be reused for recreation, the work here also includes a restoration project on the Tulpehocken Creek and the historic Union Canal that removed contaminated soils and re-built the creek banks with new grasses and plants, eliminating the arsenic discharge to the Tulpehocken Creek.”
Welsh and Hess made their remarks today with local officials at an event celebrating the completion of the cleanup and the future opening of the walking trails and ballfields on the site of the former Whitmoyer Laboratories.
From 1934 to 1964, Whitmoyer Labs manufactured veterinary pharmaceuticals at the site; arsenic compounds were produced and stored as part of this manufacturing process. From 1964 to 1982, the property changed ownership several times and was ultimately abandoned in 1987, with 17 deteriorating buildings left on the property.
Former waste disposal practices were found to contaminate on- and off-site groundwater, surface water and soils with high levels of arsenic and aniline, posing health threats to nearby residents from drinking contaminated groundwater.
In 1987, EPA conducted an emergency action at the site by providing bottled water to 20 homes with contaminated drinking water and shortly after, connected local residents to the public water system.
The site was added to EPA’s National Priorities List of the nation’s most hazardous waste sites that same year. Since then, EPA has worked with the potentially responsible parties to: demolish the 17 abandoned buildings; remove over 500 tons of hazardous materials from those buildings, and decontaminate and recycle over 785 tons of metal debris.
The original cleanup remedy called for onsite incineration of wastes. Taking into consideration public feedback, EPA and Whitmoyer Laboratories Private Study group changed the remedy to off-site treatment and disposal of contaminated wastes in 1994.
More than 50,000 tons of arsenic-contaminated waste and soils were removed and disposed of off-site, removing a significant contributor to the site’s groundwater contamination problem. Remaining soils that were found to be only lightly contaminated were capped with a two-foot layer of clean soil.
An innovative water treatment system that uses waste product from the steel industry to clean contaminated water was built in 1998, and continues to process over 150,000 gallons of water from the site each day. This system also ensures contaminated water does not affect the nearby Tulpehocken Creek.
Several modifications to the original cleanup plans throughout the entire process resulted in a savings of approximately $50 million in cleanup costs.
EPA has most recently worked with the potentially responsible parties, state and local representatives to develop recreational reuse plans for the site. Not only are the baseball fields, soccer fields, a walking trail and green space close to completion, but the historic Union Canal that runs through the property has also been preserved throughout the cleanup.
Although all the immediate and long-term environmental and human health threats have been removed from the site, EPA will continue to monitor its progress. A five-year review will take place to ensure that the cleanup remedy continues to be protective.