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Harbeson Dead Swan

EPA Region 3 (Mid-Atlantic)

Sussex County

EPA ID# DESFN0305412

1st Congressional District

Last Update: June 15, 2009
EPA will provide future updates on an as-needed basis.

Other Names


Current Site Status

The potentially responsible party has covered the lead contaminated area with a layer of topsoil and hundreds of trees were planted by the Delaware Forestry Service to deter waterfowl from accessing the lead shot in the soil.

Site Description

The Harbeson Swan Site consists of a contaminated portion of farm property located adjacent to Route 9 in Harbeson, Sussex County, Delaware.  The surrounding area is rural.  The Site was formerly was used as a recreational shooting range by the American Legion approximately 20-30 years ago.  On or about February 22, 1998, a group of bird watchers driving by the Property stopped to observe a flock of 4-foot-tall white, blackbilled Tundra Swans and noticed dozens of injured and possibly dead swans near a large puddled area on the Property.  The bird watchers contacted the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (AUSFWS@).  The injured swans were immediately transported to Tri-State Bird Rescue, a wildlife recovery organization, for rehabilitation.  Emergency medical attention, including pumping the swans= stomachs and administering antibiotics, was provided.  Twenty-two of the swans were saved.  Forty-one swans died.  Four swan carcasses were provided to the USFWS for necropsy examination.  USFWS diagnosed the swans= deaths as lead poisoning.  USFWS concluded that the presence of uniformly small lead discs in the gizzards of all four birds and the absence of larger sizes and shell shot (except for one swan) suggested that the lead came from a single source. 

Site Responsibility

This site is being addressed by a Potentially Responsible Party under an EPA Superfund Removal Order .

NPL Listing History
This Site is not on the National Priorities List

Threats and Contaminants

During the week of March 9, 1998, EPA set up a 600' x 600' grid around the area where the injured swans had been found.   A total of 280 soil samples were taken at alternating depths of 0-3 inches and 0-6 inches below the surface to determine the extent of lead contamination in surface soils.  Samples from a puddled area where the swans had been drinking were also collected.  All samples were analyzed for lead.  Results ranged from background to the highest result of 964 parts per million.  No distinct pattern of contamination was present.  Water sample results ranged from background up to 9 milligrams/liter.  During the March 1998 sampling assessment, EPA assisted USFWS by collecting 1-foot grid samples of soil from 0-2 inches below surface for lead shot counts (a quantification of the number of lead shots in a given amount of soil).  Six of the ten samples contained from 1-37 pellets.  The highest densities were located in the area in which the dead swans had been found.

Cleanup Progress

There were no previous actions at the Site.


Site Contacts

Region 3 | Mid-Atlantic Cleanup | Mid-Atlantic Superfund |EPA Home | EPA Superfund Homepage

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