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Battery Reclamation


This Industry Profile Fact Sheet is presented by the EPA Region 3 to assist state, local, and municipal agencies, and private groups in the initial planning and evaluation of sites being considered for remediation, redevelopment or reuse. It is intended to provide a general description of site conditions and contaminants which may be encountered at specific industrial facilities. This fact sheet is presented for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as a federal policy or directive.


Battery reclamation facilities salvaged the metals, primarily lead compounds, from automobile and truck batteries. A typical process includes a cracking area, sulfuric acid dumping or storage area, metal salvage area, and battery casing piles or burial pits. Older facilities used manual labor to pour the sulfuric acid from the batteries and separate the lead compounds from the battery casings. Sulfuric acid was often poured onto the ground or into small unlined lagoons. Mobile conveyor belts or trucks were used to move the large volumes of battery casings to waste piles or burial areas.


This industry was primarily a recovery operation; so, very few raw materials were used. Due to the volume and concentration of the sulfuric acid generated during recovery, it was not usually cost effective to neutralize the sulfuric acid. Soda ash or similar neutralizing agents were occasionally used for neutralizing sulfuric acid at newer facilities.


On-site waste piles and burial pits for battery casings, and unlined lagoons and waste pits for sulfuric acid were common treatment/storage techniques prior to the promulgation and enforcement of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976 (RCRA). Common waste products encountered at Superfund assessment and remediation projects include lead-contaminated soils (percent level) and ground water, highly acidified (pH as low as 1.5) soils and leachate, and large volumes of contaminated battery casings. Nickel, cadmium, copper, zinc, arsenic, mercury and chromium-contaminated soils and groundwater may also be encountered at facilities which accepted non-vehicle batteries and associated materials.

Additionally, contaminated buildings and the associated demolition debris may be encountered at abandoned or inactive sites. Decontamination and wipe testing of this material may be required prior to off-site landfill disposal.


It should be noted that many of the site contaminants contain corrosive and heavy metal compounds which may represent a significant direct contact and/or inhalation hazard to assessment personnel. Visually identified contaminated areas, waste piles and lagoons may be screened with a pH meter, then characterized by collecting several samples for metals laboratory analysis. Surface and subsurface soil sampling should be performed from the suspected contaminated areas outward to the suspected clean areas. Augering or drilling may be difficult due to extensive burial of battery casings. Once the primary contaminated areas are established, grid or random sampling may be performed to confirm the suspected clean areas. The application of non-intrusive subsurface geophysics should be evaluated to detect underground burial pits, filled lagoons, process lines and chemical storage tanks.

On-site and local wells may be sampled if groundwater is an environmental concern. Installation of monitoring wells or other groundwater sampling techniques should be evaluated if it is necessary to fill data gaps.


Heavy Metals Analysis:

pH Analysis

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

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