Tuesday, June 30, 2020

DEP Completes Hazardous Sites Cleanup Response At Pool Doctor-Beaver Alkali Products, Beaver County

On June 30, the Department of Environmental Protection announced the conclusion of its interim response under the
Hazardous Sites Cleanup Act for the Pool Doctor-Beaver Alkali Products Site in Rochester, Beaver County.
The site is now clear of hazardous chemicals that had been improperly stored and disposed within and outside buildings on the site. Final restoration of the site—which consisted of final grading, construction of a drainage swale, seeding, and mulching—has been completed. 

“Unexpected emergencies like this one, involving potentially deadly chemicals, shows the need for secure funding for the HSCA program,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell. 

On July 1, 2019, DEP initiated the interim response under HSCA to remove and properly dispose of the chemicals at the site to mitigate the threat to human health, safety, and the environment.

When DEP initiated its response, the site consisted of many drums and containers of unknown liquids and solids improperly stored and disposed in dilapidated buildings. These substances were associated with chemical businesses and a laboratory that operated out of the buildings located on the property. 

This site was not a DEP-regulated facility, but DEP responded when it became aware that the threat of release of unknown substances into the environment posed a public health and environmental risk.

Over the course of its response, DEP-- through its contractors-- processed approximately 1,000 containers of waste materials, most of which were classified as hazardous. 

DEP identified and categorized the chemicals inside and outside the buildings and prepared them for disposal or recycling. This survey includes a visual assessment of interior spaces, identification and/or classification, descriptions, and estimated quantities of each chemical.

The site presented significant challenges due to the quantity of unmarked, mislabeled, and incompatible chemicals stored improperly and in deteriorating containers, which was exacerbated by the structural instability of the buildings. 

Hazardous substances found at the site included strong acids, bases, oxidizers, and solvents. Many of these materials are highly reactive and unstable, strong irritants, flammable, and prone to combustion in sunlight, heat or moisture.

DEP originally allocated $375,000 for its response and to collect, categorize, and properly dispose of miscellaneous chemical wastes removed from the dilapidated facility. Then, a collapsed building that housed a large amount of improperly stored chemicals contributed to a chemical reaction, fire and chemical release at the site on July 12, 2019. 

As work progressed, DEP found additional storage areas and stock of hazardous chemicals as well as drums buried on the property. 

This coupled with the cost of addressing structural issues within the remaining building to conduct the work safely, disposal, transport, and 24/7 security for the site led to the total cost exceeding $3 million. 

A forthcoming final project report will be posted to DEP’s project website and will include the final cost, a full listing of all substances removed, and where they were disposed of.

As required under HSCA, DEP held a public meeting and hearing on September 4, 2019, where it collected public comments. These comments and DEP’s response were added to documents and information gathered by the department to form the basis of the administrative record. 

The administrative record closed on December 5, 2019, and DEP issued its response to comments and statement of decision to conduct the response action that same day. 

These documents and other relevant information are available on DEP’s Southwest Regional Office webpage for this matter.

While this phase of its response is complete, DEP continues to investigate any and all potentially responsible parties. DEP retains the right to pursue any site owners or other potentially responsible parties for all costs incurred by DEP during its response. 

DEP has notified the Borough of Rochester of the completion of the department’s prompt interim response. 

For more information on this program, visit DEP’s Hazardous Sites Cleanup Program webpage. Media questions should be directed to Lauren Fraley, DEP Southwest Regional Office, 412-442-4203 or send an email to: lfraley@pa.gov.

Funding HSCA

When the Hazardous Sites Cleanup Program was established in 1988, it was provided with $41.3 million a year in dedicated funding.  That dedicated funding was down to just $1.6 million in FY 2018-19 as a result of the phase out of the state’s Capital Stock and Franchise Tax.

As a temporary measure the last few years, the General Assembly took money from DCNR’s Oil and Gas Lease Fund, transferred it to the Marcellus Shale Legacy Fund created to Act 13 in 2012 so it could be transferred again to the Hazardous Sites Cleanup Fund.

For FY 2019-20, the transfer was $15 million, a real drop from the original $41.3 million.

In several recent budget hearings, DEP Secretary McDonnell has identified securing financial stability for this program as an important priority for the agency.

Proper funding is even more of a priority because of the potential cleanup costs faced by the state for sites contaminated with PFAS/PFOS “forever chemicals.”  Read more here.

Gov. Wolf’s FY 20-21 budget proposal included a $1/ton increase in the municipal waste tipping fee to provide $22.6 million to fund Hazardous Sites Cleanup Fund in addition to $18.7 million transferred from the Act 13 Marcellus Shale Legacy Fund in FY 19-20.

The 5-month budget passed in May only provided for the usual $15 million transfer to support the program and any other budget decisions were put off until November.  Read more here.


Bagenstose: PA State Superfund Program Cleans Up Scores of Toxic Sites Across The State; It’s Going Broke

Related Articles:

-- DEP Citizens Advisory Council Urges Senate, House To Adopt Funding Source For Hazardous Sites Cleanup Program Before It Becomes Insolvent

-- DEP Reports On 2017-18 Hazardous Sites Cleanup Program Actions At 273 Sites In PA

-- Governor Releases Initial PFAS Action Team Report With Recommendations; 1 Of First 96 Water Systems Sampled Exceeded [Inadequate] Action Level; 25 Contamination Sites Confirmed

[Posted: June 30, 2020]  PA Environment Digest

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