Jump to main content.



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.


Tanning is the process of manufacturing leathers from animal hides. Before shipping to the tanning facility, animal hides are preserved with a brine solution. A typical tanning facility consists of three sections: the beam house, tanning room, and finishing area. In the beam, house salt and hair are removed from the hide. The hides are then pickled with sulfuric acid to a pH of less than 3. During the tanning process the tanning solution is allowed to fully penetrate the hide. The most common tanning solution is trivalent chromium sulfate solution. The pH is then raised slowly with sodium bicarbonate and dried. In the finishing area, the hide surface is treated and dyed as required.


This industry typically uses chemicals for dehairing, liming, deliming, tanning and curing. The following chemicals are/were commonly utilized in tanning industries:


On-site waste piles, pits and vats 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 solid and liquid wastes containing trivalent chromium sulfate, corrosive liquids and sludges, volatile organic compounds, metals, cyanides, and sulfides, in addition to unused raw materials. These compounds often are absorbed into building walls, floors, ceilings and underlying soils.


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 corrosive and cyanide compounds may represent a significant direct contact and/or inhalation hazard to assessment personnel. Visually identified contaminated areas, waste piles and storage tanks 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 contaminants are established, grid or random sampling may be performed to confirm suspected clean areas. Application of non-intrusive subsurface geophysics should be evaluated to detect underground burial pits, process lines and storage tanks.

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.

Nearby surface water, on-site and local wells may be sampled if surface or groundwater is an environmental concern.


Arsenic Analysis

Cyanide Analysis

Chromium (hexavalent/total) Analysis

pH analysis

Sodium Analysis

Sulfides Analysis

Target Compound List (TCL) Analysis

Priority Pollutant Organics Analysis (volatile, semivolatile, pesticide/PCBs)

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

Local Navigation

Jump to main content.