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Land Revitalization Summer '08 Newsletter – Abandoned Quarries Near Philly Get New Lease on Life

A Superfund site in Upper Merion, Pa. will get a new lease on life thanks to two forward-thinking brownfield redevelopers. The site will soon be home to four class-A office buildings in place of four former quarries.

O’Neill Properties Group of King of Prussia, Pa. and Liberty Property Limited Partnership of Malvern, Pa. purchased portions of the nearly 50-acre site from the original office park developer. So far, Liberty has completed remediation on its portion, and constructed two office buildings. O’Neill has built one office building and occupies some of the space in it for their corporate headquarters. O’Neill plans to build two additional office buildings in the near future.

 Redevelopers' grand plan for turning former quarries into commercial bonanza.

Redevelopers' grand plan for turning former quarries into commercial bonanza.

Contamination began at this Superfund site, known as Crater Resources, in 1919 when the Alan Wood Steel Company pumped waste generated by its coking facility in Swedeland, Pa, into three of the four quarries. This waste flow continued for decades. The quarries were also used as dumping grounds for general waste trucked in by several parties. The quarries, the deepest at 65 feet, had originally been mined for limestone, sand and gravel. Alan Wood Steel declared bankruptcy in 1977 and the property changed hands several times after that.

Today, cleanup and redevelopment are running on parallel tracks – a somewhat unique arrangement. Rather than clean up the site, declare it ready for reuse, and then let developers jump in with their designs, the cleanup remedies are being tailored to the redevelopment, and vice versa.

The rest of O’Neill’s construction and cleanup are being done in stages. Before each additional building can be constructed, a temporary cap will be installed over the quarries. Once the buildings are built, permanent caps will replace the temporary ones.

 One five-story office building has already been built on former quarry land.

One five-story office building has already been built on former quarry land.

In addition to the quarry caps, O’Neill is excavating contaminated surface soil from other parts of the property and using it as backfill for some of the quarries. And, the on-site pipeline which once pumped waste into three quarries, is being investigated for any remaining contamination, and eventual cleanup. Liberty investigated and removed portions of the pipeline traversing its property prior to construction of its office buildings. Contaminated groundwater at the site, which is to be addressed by other parties, will use a natural attenuation approach, in other words, allowing nature to dilute the contaminants over time.

Throughout the project, the community has been guaranteed ongoing two-way communication. For example, in order to get buy-in from Upper Merion Township officials, O’Neill agreed to hold monthly community meetings. And, local citizens formed an environmental advisory committee which studies the environmental issues surrounding the site, and reports back to the local board of supervisors.

This project has been a win-win for the developers, the EPA and the community.

Article contributed by
Ruth Wuenschel
EPA Land Revitalization Update

Region 3 | Mid-Atlantic Cleanup | Mid-Atlantic Brownfields & Land Revitalization


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