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Scrap Metal


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.


The scrap metal industry purchases metals from various industrial and private sources for reuse in the fabrication of new metal stock and products. Sources of scrap metal include car parts, structural steel, electrical equipment, tanks and vats, and commercial salvage operations. Metals are sorted by type, compacted or shredded and stored prior to sale to an end user.


Common metals found at scrap metal sites could include iron, steel, aluminum, copper, tin, brass, lead and zinc.


Heavy metals contamination is the main concern at a former scrap metal site. Soil contamination should be suspected. Waste piles of non-metallic materials may be present. These piles consist of materials which were associated with the original metal such as asbestos, foam padding and insulating materials. Other associated waste stream materials are trichloroethylene, trichloroethane, xylenes, benzene, ethyl benzene and toluene. PCB-contaminated soils may be at facilities which recovered copper and other metals from electrical equipment. Many scrap metal facilities utilize a wide variety of hydraulic equipment to move, compact and process scrap. Hydraulic oil and fuels may also contribute to soil contamination.


Soil samples should be taken around the facility from sumps, drainage swales or discolored areas. Heavy metals contamination should also be suspected in any nearby waterway.

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, process lines and underground 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, including (include lead, nickel, copper, chromium and zinc)

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

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

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