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Hellertown Manufacturing Company

EPA Region 3 (Mid-Atlantic)

Northampton County

EPA ID# PAD002390748

15th Congressional District

Last Update: February 2014

Other Names

Champion Spark Plug Company

Current Site Status

EPA had been overseeing the cleanup of the Hellertown Manufacturing Co. site, where a pump and treat system that extracts and treats groundwater that is contaminated primarily with TCE, a chemical component of solvents, is in place (although it is not operating at this time). When operating, the extraction system pumps and treats groundwater and dischages it to the Saucon Creek under a PADEP NPDES permit. Groundwater is currently sampled on a semi-annual basis. Consent Decree negotiations between EPA and the potentially responsible parties, Federal-Mogul Corporation and Paikes Enterprises, Incorporated, for reimbursement of past cleanup costs and the takeover of the remediation work ended when Federal-Mogul declared bankruptcy on October 1, 2001. On-site activities that are currently underway include monitoring of groundwater to assess the contaminant levels. A new monitoring well was installed in November 2005 between the Site and the nearby Saucon Creek to assist in refining the delineation of the contamination plume. The state (PADEP) assumed all operation and maintenance responsibility for the site in September 2007. The EPA has investigated several properties for potential vapor intrusion issues related to the TCE contamination in groundwater. The initial investigation was finalized in May 2009 with some follow-up sampling that was performed in 2013. A five-year review of the implemented remedy was completed in April 2010. In 2012, an Explanation of Significant Differences was prepared that changed the groundwater cleanup standard from background to the Maximum Contaminant Levels identified in the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Site Description

The Hellertown Manufacturing Co. site located in Hellertown, Northampton County, Pennsylvania is a 9-acre site which manufactured spark plugs from 1930 to 1982 (Champion Spark Plug Company). Spark plug manufacturing involved a plating process and degreasing operation that used various chemicals, including trichloroethylene (TCE), that resulted in the generation, storage, and disposal of various wastes. Groundwater underlying the site was contaminated with volatile organic compounds (VOCs), according to tests conducted by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Resources in 1985. The Champion Spark Plug Company used five on-site lagoons for the disposal of wastes, including cleaners, cutting oils, zinc plating waste, and chrome dip waste. The lagoons were unlined, allowing wastes to seep into the local groundwater. In 1970, the company reported that it discharged 300,000 drums of wastes to the lagoons. All five lagoons were filled in 1976 with formerly excavated material and borrow material from off-Site. Saucon Creek is located approximately 1,000 feet downgradient from the Site and is used for fishing.
Site Responsibility
This site is being addressed through federal actions and O&M responsibility has been assumed by the state.
NPL Listing History
Our country's most serious, uncontrolled, or abandoned hazardous waste sites can be cleaned using federal money. This site was proposed to the list on January 22, 1987 and formally added to the list March 31, 1989.

Threats and Contaminants

Groundwater underlying the site is contaminated with volatile organic compounds (VOCs), according to tests conducted by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Resources (now PADEP) in 1985. On-site soils and sludges from the former waste lagoons are contaminated with chromium and cyanide from former manufacturing process wastes. On-site workers may have been threatened by coming in contact with or accidentally ingesting contaminated soils, sludges, or groundwater prior to site cleanup activities. During cleanup, there was a potential for stirring up dusts, which are hazardous to inhale. Individuals may be at risk if they ingest contaminated groundwater or fish, or come into direct contact with contaminated water.

Contaminant descriptions and risk factors are available from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, an arm of the CDC.

Cleanup Progress

In 1991, the EPA selected a cleanup remedy for the site. The remedy called for construction of an impermeable cover over the former lagoon area and installation of a groundwater extraction and treatment system. The EPA began designing the remedy in early 1992. Design of the impermeable cover was completed in April 1993 and construction of the cover was completed in July 1994. The design of the groundwater pump and treatment system was completed in December 1994. Construction of the pump and treatment system was completed in March 1996. The treatment system operated until August 1997 when the lone extraction well failed, resulting in sand and grit being pumped into the plant. Replacement of that extraction well and repairs to the plant were completed in July 1999. The operation of the pump and the treat system was halted in 2012 to evaluate contaminant levels under static groundwater conditions. A soil/gas survey was completed in December 2002, followed by soil sampling of a potential TCE contamination source, in addition to a spring/seep study that was completed in April 2004. The soil sampling showed elevated levels of TCE near well CSP-7, located adjacent to the treatment building. These elevated levels were not high enough to warrant removal action. From 2008 to 2010, a vapor intrusion study was conducted on several properties within the immediate vicinity of CSP-7. The results of the study indicate that there is no current vapor intrusion threat to the off-site properties evaluated, although one of the properties required re-sampling to verify original results. Some confirmatory, follow-up sampling was conducted in 2013. In 2012, an Explanation of Significant Differences was prepared that changed the groundwater cleanup standard from background to the Maximum Contaminant Levels.


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