Ambler Asbestos Piles
Current Site Information
EPA Region 3 (Mid-Atlantic)Pennsylvania
Borough of Ambler
EPA ID# PAD000436436
13th Congressional District
Last Update: January 2015
Current Site Status
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency completed the cleanup for the 25-acre Ambler Asbestos Piles site on August 30, 1993. Human health threats and potential environmental impacts have been minimized, and the site was removed from the National Priorities List, EPA's list of Superfund sites, December 27, 1996. Since 1997, four Five-Year Reviews of the site have all certified that the remedy continues to be protective of human health and the environment. However, in 2007 it was recognized that although the site was protective, there were no legally enforceable institutional controls on the site to prevent future disturbances to the constructed caps and erosion controls. EPA issued a January 2010 Explanation of Significant Differences (ESD) to require institutional controls for the property and on April 10, 2012, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) issued an administrative order to the current owner of the Site. The legally enforceable order satisfies the requirement for institutional controls by prohibiting activities that could disturb the site remedies, unless plans are submitted to, and approved by, EPA and DEP prior to any activity. The most recent Five-Year Review of the remedies implemented at the Site, issued in September 2012, has shown that the Site continues to be protective of human health and the environment. Long-term operation and maintenance of the site is ongoing.
The Ambler Asbestos Piles site is made up of three asbestos-containing waste piles and a series of filter bed lagoons. The total volume of asbestos-contaminated waste in the piles is estimated to exceed 1½ million cubic yards. The site is located in Ambler, Pennsylvania (13th Congressional District) and is surrounded by a mixed commercial/residential area. Approximately 6,000 people live within ½-mile of the site. The nearest residence is within 200 feet of one of the piles; about 40 residences are located within 1/4-mile. Wissahickon Creek and its flood plain border the site.
The Piles were constructed with the deposition of both solid asbestos wastes that were dumped on the surface and liquid waste slurries that were pumped into constructed cinder berms and allowed to dry. Dumping of asbestos-containing waste on the site apparently began in the early 1930's and continued until 1974. The EPA-approved final cleanup of the Ambler Asbestos Piles Site was completed on August 30, 1993.
Site ResponsibilityThe cleanup of this site was the responsibility of the federal government and parties potentially responsible for site contamination.
NPL Listing HistoryOur country's most serious, uncontrolled, or abandoned hazardous waste sites can be cleaned using federal money. To be eligible for federal cleanup money, a site must be put on the National Priorities List. This site was proposed to the list on October 10, 1984 and formally added to the list June 10, 1986. Remedial actions are complete and this site was deleted from the list December 27, 1996.
Threats and ContaminantsDuring the pre-cleanup investigations, the air, ground water, soil, sediments, and surface water were found to be contaminated with asbestos.
Contaminant descriptions and risk factors are available from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, an arm of the CDC.
The cleanup of this Site was accomplished through the following actions. In 1974, the State denied permit applications for continued disposal and ordered the two companies that were operating at the site to stop dumping and to stabilize and cover the waste piles. Remedial Investigations were conducted on both parcels to determine the degree and extent of contamination. The investigations found asbestos in the soils, in on-site lagoon sludge, and on equipment in the Locust Street playground, adjacent to the Locust Street Pile. As an early response to these findings, the contaminated playground equipment was removed, the sides of the piles were reinforced with clean soil and security fencing was constructed around the site. Additional cleanup actions were selected and described in EPA-issued Records of Decisions in 1988 and 1989. These cleanup actions consisted of regrading and capping the pile plateaus; reinforcing the soil cover; installing erosion and sedimentation control devices; draining and backfilling the lagoons with clean soil; installing or upgrading the fencing/locking gates; posting warning signs; and monitoring the air. Where the piles bordered surface water, they were reinforced against erosion. These actions were completed and mitigate the threats of release of asbestos and exposure of the surrounding community.
Two parties entered into separate Consent Decrees to design and implement the remedies. CertainTeed Corporation, as the current owner, conducted the work for Operable Unit 2 detailed in the November 1990 Consent Decree. T&N Industries, Inc., as the parent corporation of a previous owner, conducted the work for Operable Unit 1 under a May, 1991 Consent Decree. The remedies were implemented and on-site physical construction was completed in October 1992; EPA accepted the construction reports in April 1993.
The construction of all remedies, along with all approvals and documentation, at the Ambler Asbestos Piles Superfund site was completed August 30, 1993 and the site was consequently deleted from the National Priorities List on December 27, 1996. Maintenance of the remedies constructed at this Site is conducted as part of an ongoing Operation and Maintenance Program. A major maintenance project was concluded in October 2010 with the reinforcement of the eroded banks of the Wissahickon immediately upstream of the revetment. Areas of the bank that had been scoured away by the stream were reinforced with angular rock (riprap) sized to resist erosion from the flowing stream. Three five-year reviews of the remedy were completed May 27, 1997, September 25, 2002, and September 25, 2007. All of the reviews certified that the cleanup of the site continues to be protective of human health and the environment. However, the 2007 five-year review recognized that although the site is protective as it exists now, there are no legally enforceable institutional controls on the site to prevent future disturbances to the constructed caps and erosion controls. In January 2010, EPA issued an Explanation of Significant Differences (ESD) to require that institutional controls be placed on the Site property. On April 10, 2012, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) issued an administrative order pursuant to the Pennsylvania Hazardous Sites Cleanup Act ("HSCA"), to the current owner of the Site. The legally enforceable order satisfies the requirement for institutional controls by requiring that the owner comply with the requirements of the ESD, including the prohibition of activities that could disturb the site remedies, unless plans are submitted to, and approved by, EPA and DEP. Long-term operation and maintenance of the site is ongoing. The fourth five-Year Review of the remedies implemented at the Site, issued in September 2012, has shown that the Site continues to be protective of human health and the environment.