Fact Sheet: April 1998, Issue #8
Drake Cleanup Team Begins Incineration
Over the past year, while scientists reviewed the results of last year's incinerator tests, EPA checked systems, equipment installations and adjustments to site equipment. The scientists concluded that Drake Incinerator operation would pose no threat to the local community and environment. At 7:35 a.m. on Wednesday, March 4, 1998, the incinerator began processing the 250,000 tons of contaminated soil from the former chemical plant property that will be treated over the next 18 months. After the soil is treated, the incinerator will be removed, the property covered with topsoil and prepared for reuse.
In the weeks before full-scale startup, the Drake Cleanup Team slowly started burners in the kiln and secondary combustion chamber (SCC) to bring the plant up to operating temperatures. After safety and system checks on the equipment, the team processed clean soil for several days.
The start of the heat-up phase was delayed one week while the team evaluated questions and concerns the public voiced during a meeting on February 10. The team carefully reviewed these issues and concluded, as the risk assessment states, that the incinerator operation poses no public health or environmental threat. Responses to these issues were placed in the three public repositories in Lock Haven and in the master repository in Philadelphia.
The Drake Cleanup Team has taken extraordinary measures to ensure the health and safety of area residents. These measures were evident when, at approximately 11:00 a.m. on March 4, OHM Remediation Services Corp. (OHM), the contractor operating the incinerator, stopped the soil feed to the incinerator after observing dust in the steam rising off the treated soil. (See the article on Starting and Stopping below.)
Although the dust was not toxic, the emissions violated the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection's (PaDEP) air quality standards. PaDEP issued a Notice of Violation (NOV) to OHM, but agreed with the decision to stop the soil feed and noted their prompt response. The treated soil is very hot coming out of the incinerator, so a water mist is sprayed over the treated soil to cool it. Because the soil is so hot, most of the water becomes steam. Technicians were concerned that some particles of treated soil were being carried into the air by the escaping steam.
After suspending the soil feed, technicians inspected the incinerator and found that water lines and some spray nozzles were clogged with scaling. Scaling is a naturally occurring buildup inside pipes when they are not used for long periods of time. Once the problem was corrected, the soil feed and site cleanup resumed.
On March 5, after a day and a half of treating contaminated soil, the Drake Cleanup Team again stopped the soil feed because of dust from the treated soil. This second shut down was a joint decision among PaDEP, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and OHM. PaDEP issued a NOV even though the dust came from treated soil.
Between March 5 and 8, technicians adjusted the system that cools and handles the treated soil to correct the escape of dust. These adjustments included adding more fog nozzles, which mist the treated soil to help reduce airborne particles. On March 8, the team tested the incinerator operation using clean soil. On March 9, the team returned to full operations treating contaminated soil.
On March 11, at 8:46 p.m., the Thermal Relief Vent (TRV) on the incinerator opened for a total of 88 seconds because an air-pressure control valve froze. The TRV is on top of the SCC and opens only when necessary to prevent fire or other major damage to the system's pollution-control equipment. Operating at a temperature of 1800 degrees Fahrenheit, the SCC destroys contaminants that come out of the soil. The TRV was triggered when temperatures in the evaporative cooler could not be lowered as quickly as needed. The gases must be cooled rapidly down to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. That night an air pressure control valve froze and, instead of mist, an ineffective solid stream of water shot into the cooler.
Computer controls immediately stopped the soil feed and opened the TRV. When the TRV opened unexpectedly, the team immediately stopped operations. In addition, federal, state and local officials and emergency services personnel were immediately notified.
The fact that the TRV opened automatically ensures that the system is responding to abnormal conditions. The scientists who developed the risk assessment included all of the possible emissions from four dozen TRV openings in their analysis of potential risks.
On March 12, maintenance crews tested every regulator and valve in the system to ensure that none were frozen and all were working correctly. After all the regulators and valves were checked the team resumed full-scale incinerator operations at 3:20 p.m. that day.
As of March 25, the Drake Cleanup Team has treated 12,000 tons of contaminated soil from this former chemical company property. Each day's treated soil is sampled, stored separately and backfilled onto the site after laboratory results certify that it meets acceptance requirements. To date, all treated soils have successfully passed testing and will be backfilled.
National Superfund Ombudsman Visits Lock Haven
Bob Martin, EPA's National Superfund Ombudsman, recently visited Lock Haven to hold a series of meetings with the community and local leaders. Martin held these meetings on March 2, 3, 4 and 19. He met with local officials and the Lock Haven community. The comments and questions from these meetings, as well as information from Arrest the Incinerator Remediation (A.I.R.), a local citizen's group opposed to the incinerator, will be considered in Martin's final report, which is expected to be released in the next few weeks.
On March 2, Martin met with a former USACE employee who worked at the site during the trial burn and who expressed personal concerns about the project, including the general operation of the incinerator and alleged release of dust and chemical odors. On Tuesday morning, March 3, Martin toured the Drake Site.
Later that afternoon, Martin attended a meeting of the Lock Haven Environmental Advisory Committee (LHEAC) where he outlined the ombudsman's processes for gathering information and issuing a final report. He stated that, in this report, he would include comments from EPA's Peer Review, which occurred in January 1998, and from meetings he held in Lock Haven. The primary objective of the ombudsman's process is to ensure that the community has the opportunity to voice its concerns. However, Martin made it clear that this process is separate from the critical path for startup and operation of the incinerator.
After attending the LHEAC meeting, Martin met with members of the Clinton County Farm Bureau. Members of the bureau discussed their requirements for air-monitoring data.
Martin's next meeting was with the Clinton County Commissioners at the County Court House on March 4. At this meeting, Martin carefully explained his review and reporting process to the commissioners and the attending public, including members of A.I.R who expressed their latest concerns about the site.
Martin held one final public hearing on March 19. About 47 citizens attended this three-hour meeting held in the Clinton County Court House. Statements were taken from several audience members including Clinton County Commissioner Rusty Bottorf and Bill Smedley from A.I.R. Mick Harrison, A.I.R's legal representative, presented the group's objections to the Drake cleanup project. Martin again stated his time schedule for completing his report.
Starting and Stopping
The Drake Site's estimated schedule of 18 months of incineration operation is based on many factors, including planned maintenance. Although the incinerator is able to process as much as 47 tons of soil per hour, there will be times the incinerator will not process that much.
The percentage of time that the incinerator will be available to process contaminated soil is referred to as availability. The Drake Incinerator is expected to be available 65% of the time. Short feed stops for minor equipment adjustments and maintenance occur almost daily. Longer planned stops for checking operating controls and safety equipment occur monthly. During cold winter months, natural gas supplies could be curtailed to industrial users causing the plant to stop operation. In spring and summer months when thunderstorms are expected, the plant will stop the soil feed so as not to be caught by an unexpected power outage. Since pieces of moving machinery wear out as a normal course of operation, the plant will have to shut down from time to time to replace worn parts.
The Drake Cleanup Team will report significant stoppages and startups to the community and will report minor, planned stoppages in weekly summary reports. As long as the team continues to achieve the availability goal of 65%, the property will be successfully and safely cleaned within the expected 18 months.
What is a Fugitive Emission?
During the first week of operation, OHM stopped the feed of contaminated soil through the incinerator at the Drake Site because dust from soil already processed through the incinerator was drifting offsite. Even though the dust came from the treated soil, PaDEP cited OHM for what is termed fugitive emissions. Why would PaDEP cite OHM if the dust was harmless?
Fugitive emission is the combination of two terms -- emission and fugitive air contaminant. PaDEP defines an emission as an air contaminant emitted into the outdoor atmosphere and a fugitive air contaminant as any air contaminant of the outdoor atmosphere not emitted through a flue. Based on these definitions, dust from a construction worksite, such as debris released into the air from sandblasting the face of a stone building, is considered fugitive emissions. Even though the dust may not be harmful, as was the case at the Drake Site, it is still a violation of PaDEP's air quality regulations.
For more information on how the Drake Cleanup Team addressed the fugitive emissions, as well as other recent events at the Drake Site, see the article above.
New Community Involvement Coordinator Joins Drake Team
David Polish, EPA Community Involvement Coordinator (CIC), is now the official spokesperson for the Drake Cleanup Team. Hans Petersen, the previous CIC, has accepted a position with the Veteran's Administration in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. We wish him well in his new venture.
Dave has been a CIC with EPA for more than a year and is assigned to a variety of other sites including the Palmerton Zinc Pile Superfund Site in Palmerton, Pennsylvania. Dave worked with Hans' as his backup at Drake, so he already has a great deal of knowledge about the cleanup program at the site.
Prior to working for EPA, Dave served from 1983 to 1996 in a civilian capacity as a Public Affairs Officer for the U.S. Navy. He was assigned to the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division in Warminster, Pennsylvania and the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division in Trenton, New Jersey. Dave held these positions during the time when both facilities were directed to close under the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process. From 1979 to 1983 Dave was a Public Affairs Specialist at the Warminster base. Dave started working for the Navy as a photographer in 1974.
Dave received a Bachelor of Science degree in Communications from Temple University in Philadelphia. In addition, he has taken a variety of computer science courses and is skilled in computer graphics and desktop publishing.
If you are interested in having someone from the Drake Cleanup Team talk to your group, please contact George Drumbor at the Drake Community Outreach Center, at 748-0872.