Current Site Information
EPA Region 3 (Mid-Atlantic)Pennsylvania
EPA ID# PAD980692537
5th Congressional District
Last Update: February 2014
Current Site StatusThe U.S. Environmental Protection Agency cleaned up this site and the site no longer poses a threat to public health or the environment. The EPA deleted the site from the National Priorities List of the nation's most hazardous waste sites in 1992.
This 40-acre site is located on the northern side of Westline, McKean County, Pennsylvania. During the first half of the 1900s, a lumber processing plant operated on the site. Its chemical plant converted lumber into charcoal, methanol, and acetic acid. In 1952, a fire and explosion caused the facility to close. The owners left the plant's foundation, demolition debris, and a tar-like production waste containing high levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). This waste material was disposed of, or flowed into, natural or excavated depressions located hundreds of feet away within the town.
The site encompassed most of Westline and its adjacent streams, including Kinzua Creek and Turnip Run. The dispersed waste tar deposits were up to nine feet thick. A 1,500-square-foot, six-inch thick deposit was removed from behind the Westline Church; an even larger deposit was removed in 1983. Plant-related contaminants were detected mainly in surface soils.
Some byproducts of petroleum, such as benzene were detected in groundwater at the Site, but as of 1988, drinking water supply wells were no longer being used. Westline now uses an unpolluted spring for its water supply. This spring is north of the town. The surrounding area is rural, and the town is surrounded by the Allegheny National Forest. Westline has a small, permanent resident population of about 100, which increases seasonally. Hunting and fishing camps are located throughout the town.
Site ResponsibilityThis site was addressed through federal actions.
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 (NPL). This site was proposed for listing on December 30, 1982. The site was added to the NPL on September 8, 1983.
Once Superfund site work is done, it is evaluated to see if the remedy is effective. If the goal of the work is reached, and EPA determines that nothing else remains to be done, the site is then removed from the list of sites eligible for federal Superfund funding . This site was deleted from the NPL on October 14, 1992.
Threats and Contaminants
The area has been cleaned up, thus protecting human health and the environment. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) detected in the tar deposits posed a threat to people who came in direct contact with, inhaled, or ingested contaminated materials. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs), such as benzene, were detected in one monitoring well. Human exposure is negligible since the town began using the nearby spring as a new drinking water supply.
The town is located in a 100-year flood plain; areas containing tar could be subject to erosion if a flood occurs, possibly causing contaminants to enter the Allegheny Reservoir. Low levels of VOCs were found in Kinzua Creek, which discharges into the Allegheny Reservoir.
Contaminant descriptions and risk factors are available from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, an arm of the CDC.
In 1983, the property owners placed a fence and warning signs around the property. Also in 1983, EPA emergency workers capped the largest tar deposit with clay, then covered and graded the area with clean fill that was seeded and mulched. Cracks soon appeared in the cover, however, and liquids again began leaching from the area. At this point, EPA excavated and removed 2,000 tons of tar and contaminated soils from the site.
The EPA controlled the source of contamination by excavating tar from all known deposits and any that were discovered during the work; removing contaminated soils; backfilling and revegetating excavations; transporting contaminated materials to an EPA-licensed facility for incineration; conducting groundwater studies; and checking the flood plain area periodically for tar deposits newly exposed by erosion. Removal of tar deposits was completed in 1990. The activities included further, but not total, removal of the major tar deposit below the surface. This area has been cleaned up to levels that do not pose a threat to public health or the environment.
EPA has completed all planned cleanup activities and will continue periodic inspections to ensure that safety levels are maintained. The site was deleted from the National Priorities List in 1992.