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Berks Sand Pit

Current Site Information

EPA Region 3 (Mid-Atlantic)

Berks County
15 miles northeast of Reading
near the Village of Huffs Church

EPA ID# PAD980691794

6th Congressional District

Last Update: February 2014

Other Names

Van Elswyck Property

Current Site Status

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is overseeing the cleanup of the Berks Sand Pit site. Since 2005, site operations and maintenance (O&M) was turned over to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP). The groundwater treatment plant had been fully operational except for brief periods for repair, maintenance and draught through the summer of 2011 when it experienced a lightning strike which damaged the instrumentation and controls of the treatment plant. The plant has not been operating since July 2011. However, cleanup efforts continue as the PADEP is conducting an in-situ pilot study for chemical reduction and bioremediation injections. In the fall of 2012 the PADEP drilled two new injection wells and in December, 2012 conducted a series of injections that will enhance the degradation of TCA and DCE in the groundwater. Follow up analysis of groundwater indicated the injections were having an impact on contamination in ground water and a second round of injections took place in October 2013. Injections are being studied because there is little contamination being removed from the water being pumped and PADEP may find that bioremediation may more effectively treat the remaining contamination. Soybean based amendments are being used to promote anaerobic chemical reduction and the bacteria Dehalococcoides ethenogenes (DHC) are being added. The PADEP continues to collect samples from nearby residential wells annually to insure drinking water remains within acceptable limits. Samples were also collected from the stream to monitor the effectiveness of the cleanup.

Site Description

The Berks Sand Pit site consists of a contaminated groundwater plume that at one time impacted 30 residences in Longswamp Township, Pennsylvania. In January 1982, groundwater contamination was detected in the area by residents. Despite emergency response's and further investigatory actions by EPA, the source of contamination was never specifically identified. Contamination at the site consists of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are typically found in solvents and degreasers. These contaminants were released into the groundwater and threaten both the bedrock aquifer and the Middle Branch of the Perkiomen Creek. Approximately 100 residents live in the immediate vicinity of the site and were at risk from drinking contaminated groundwater.

Site Responsibility

Cleanup of this site is the responsibility of Federal and State governments, the site owner and parties potentially responsible for site contamination.

NPL Listing History

Our country's most serious, uncontrolled, or abandoned hazardous waste sites can be cleaned using federal money. To be eligible for federal cleanup money, a site must be put on the National Priorities List. This site was proposed to the list on September 8, 1983 and formally added to the list on September 21, 1984.

Threats and Contaminants

Groundwater is contaminated with VOCs and removed at the treatment plant. The treated water is then discharged into an unnamed tributary to the West Branch of the Perkiomen Creek which flows through the site. Residential wells are regularly monitored to insure pollutants remain within safe drinking water levels. Long-term cleanup efforts began with the pumping and treatment of the aquifer in March 1993. The predominant contaminants of concern at the Site are 1,1,1-trichloroethane (TCA) and 1,1-dichloroethene (DCE).

Contaminant descriptions and risk factors are available from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, an arm of the CDC.

Cleanup Progress

EPA installed an upgradient drinking water well, holding tank, and water line for four residences in 1983 as an alternate water source. The homeowners maintained the system until contaminant levels in their private wells decreased to non-detect or acceptable levels. The residents currently receive their drinking water from privately-owned residential wells.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection investigated the site and prepared the feasibility study. In September 1988, EPA issued the final cleanup plan requiring the pumping and treatment of contaminated groundwater. EPA further defined the extent of the contaminated groundwater and in 1990, began constructing the groundwater extraction wells and associated monitoring wells. Design of the groundwater treatment plant began in 1990 and was completed in 1991. Construction of the treatment plant began shortly thereafter and the first phase was completed March 1993. Later that year, three additional extraction wells were installed and connected to the treatment system. A public meeting and tour of the completed facility was conducted in October 1993. The system was modified and optimized throughout 1994. Final inspection was conducted in February 1995.

EPA and PADEP have treated over 435 million gallons of contaminated groundwater at the groundwater treatment facility since March 1993. The plume of contaminated groundwater decreased approximately 80 percent since 1994. Pumping and treatment of the contaminated aquifer will be continued by PADEP.

The state is currently conducting a pilot study to evaluate the impact of injections. The remedy will be modified if injections prove to be an effective method for removing the remaining contamination.


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