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EPA and DNREC To Decontaminate Metachem Process Vessels

Release Date: 1/2/2003
Contact Information: EPA: David Sternberg, (215) 814-5548 & DNREC: Marjorie Crofts, (302) 739-4764

EPA: David Sternberg, (215) 814-5548 & DNREC: Marjorie Crofts, (302) 739-4764

DELAWARE CITY, DE. - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control will begin removing approximately one million pounds of chlorinated benzene mass from portions of the former Metachem Products facility in early January. Utilizing existing facility equipment, cleanup technicians will treat and move this material to suitable storage containers for subsequent off-site disposal. This important decontamination process will focus on treatment and removal of materials associated with the facility’s chemical reactors. The decontamination process is expected to take three to five weeks.

The agencies have tested the chemical process equipment needed to complete this project and will conduct a full test of the needed systems next week. The cleanup technicians have been trained to ensure that the decontamination process will be conducted properly and safely. EPA and DNREC have developed a comprehensive air monitoring program that will be in place throughout the process, and contingency plans have been made to immediately shut down the process, if necessary.

Since Metachem abandoned the Delaware City site on May 14, 2002, EPA and DNREC have conducted numerous stabilization and decontamination activities at the facility. These activities have resulted in the removal of over 62,000 gallons of hazardous chemicals; removal of thousands of small containers from the laboratory; removal of 100,000 pounds of sludge and debris; treatment of more than 15 million gallons of wastewater; transfer of millions of pounds of chemicals to more secure storage; decontamination of 16 railcars; and, preparation of the onsite groundwater treatment system for continued operation.

Manufacture of chlorinated benzene chemicals began at the facility in 1966 when it was owned and operated by Standard Chlorine of Delaware, Inc. The facility includes more than 100 tanks and process vessels, thousands of feet of piping, stored drums, a warehouse, a dichlorobenzene flaking and packaging unit, railroad sidings, tank car unloading areas, contaminated soil piles, an impoundment containing contaminated sediment, a wastewater treatment plant, and numerous other structures.

The site is located in a rural area of Delaware, but is nearly surrounded by other chemical production and processing facilities. Red Lion Creek and its tributaries, which drain to the Delaware River, are located within 1000 feet to the north and west of the site.

The facility produced a variety of chlorinated benzene compounds which were used, among other things, to make pesticides, disinfectants, dyes, and plastics. These compounds resulted from mixing and then distilling chlorine and benzene. Chlorine was supplied via a pipeline from an adjacent chemical production facility and benzene was transported by tanker and stored onsite.