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Salvage Yards


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.


Salvage yards accept a wide variety of materials, depending on the type of salvage yard (i.e. auto, tank, etc.), to be disassembled to recover parts or reusable scrap metals, plastics or building aggregates. The non-recyclable components are then stored on site or sent to a municipal landfill. Salvage yards often contain a wide variety of materials and containers due to the nature of their business; however, automobile salvage is the most common.


This industry typically uses hydraulic oils for heavy equipment, compressed gases for metal cutting operations, and petroleum-based materials as solvents. These materials are usually received by the facility in compressed gas cylinders and small containers, but are occasionally obtained in larger quantities. The following chemical compounds are/were commonly found in scrap yards:

(g) - gas (L) - liquid (s) - solid


In addition to the compounds used by the facility, waste products were stored in the scrap and are also present in varying concentrations. On-site waste piles, burial pits, and bulk storage tanks were common 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 fuels, waste oils, used solvents, tires and/or rubber sealing agents, asbestos insulation, oil sludges, old battery casings, and compressed gas cylinders. Fuel, oil and solvent contaminated soils and groundwater may be present due to poor housekeeping, repetitive small spills, leaking bulk storage tanks and run-off from waste piles.

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.


All raw materials encountered on-site should be visually identified and confirmed using immuno-assay, qualitative indicators, or wet chemistry field screening techniques. It should be noted that many of the raw materials containing organic and PCB compounds may represent a significant direct contact and/or inhalation hazard to assessment personnel. Visually identified contaminated areas, waste piles and burial pits should be characterized by collecting several samples for laboratory analysis. Surface and subsurface soil sampling should be performed from the suspected contaminated areas outward to the suspected clean areas. 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 and underground 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.


Asbestos (if suspected)

Cyanide Analysis

Heavy Metals Analysis:

Priority Pollutant Organic Analysis (volatiles, semivolatiles, pesticide/PCBs)

Total Petroleum Hydrocarbons (TPH) Analysis

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

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