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Glass Manufacturing


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.


Most glass manufacturing utilizes a process in which raw materials are converted at high temperatures to a molten glass. The molten glass is then formed into various products using molding, pressing and blowing processes.

A facility may consist of several interconnected buildings including a primary kiln room, drying area, pigment application rooms, and separate etching rooms. Vats of etching mixtures or frosting agents may be located in close proximity to the kiln area.


Sand and limestone are the most common raw materials in glass manufacturing. Other raw materials include boron, soda ash and some metallic additives. Some facilities utilize recycled glass as the primary raw material.

The hazardous components of the raw materials include the etching agents, typically hydrogen fluoride and fluoride-donating salts. Strong oxidizing corrosives, such as nitric acid, may be present in limited quantities to produce the correct oxidation states in the pigment metals. Amines and strong reducing agents are occasionally utilized in the process. Heavy metals containing arsenic, cobalt, zinc, thorium, and uranium were common pigment materials in addition to specialty organic dyes. Above or below ground bulk storage tanks containing fuels for primary and secondary kilns may also be present.


Solid waste streams containing spent pigments and dyes are typical surface soil contaminants. Some small volume liquid waste streams, resulting from the etching process, may also be present. These liquid waste streams may also contain dissolved metals. Discharges to waterways and sensitive areas present significant threats from the heavy metals pigments, organic dyes, and strong corrosives. The fluoride waste streams are extremely dangerous to human populations. Waste piles consisting of off-spec materials and glass products may be a source of contaminated run-off.


All waste materials encountered on site should be visually identified and confirmed using immuno-assay, qualitative indicators, or wet chemistry field screening techniques. Radioactive materials can easily be detected using a scintillation counter. It should be noted that many of the waste materials may represent a significant direct contact and/or inhalation hazard to assessment personnel. Visually identified contaminated areas, waste piles and lagoons should be characterized by collecting several samples for laboratory analysis. Surface and subsurface soil sampling should be performed to confirm the extent of the contamination. Once the contaminated areas are established, grid or random sampling may be performed to confirm the suspected clean areas.

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:

Isotopic Identification for Individual Radioactive Materials

Total Petroleum Hydrocarbon (TPH) Analysis

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

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