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Whitmoyer Laboratories

EPA Region 3 (Mid-Atlantic)

Lebanon County
1 mile southwest of Myerstown

EPA ID# PAD003005014

17th Congressional District

Last Update: January 2015

Other Names

Whitmoyer Labs

Current Site Status

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is overseeing a group of private companies, also known as potentially responsible parties (PRPs), who are cleaning up the Whitmoyer Laboratories site. Currently, all the residents whose drinking water was threatened by contamination have been connected to the public water supply, thereby eliminating their risk. All of the on-site buildings were knocked down and removed. Over 50,000 tons of hazardous waste have been removed for treatment and disposal. A groundwater treatment plant was built and is cleaning over 150,000 gallons of contaminated water each day. Clean up of all the contaminated soils, except approximately 3000 cubic yards (less than 1% of contaminated soils) underneath a small portion of Fairlane Avenue adjacent to the site, was completed in October 2001. In June 2002, EPA hosted a public event to celebrate the end of all construction at the site. In October 2004, EPA entered into a Prospective Purchase Agreement (PPA) with the Jackson Township to facilitate purchase of the site property for recreational uses. In April 2005, PRPs completed Whtimoyer Laboratories property transfer to Jackson Township. Long-term groundwater treatment and monitoring are continuing on-site. As a part of long-term monitoring of groundwater progress, the PRPs are required to submitt an annual report for each year of groundwater treatment operation. the In December 2008, PRP submitted the Year 10 Groundwater Monitoring report. The report data indicated that the groundwater treatment is functioning as designed. The fourth five-year review was completed in April 2010. One of the recommendation in the fourth five-year review was to define the contaminated groundwater plume based on more conservative recently changed Maximum Contamination Level (MCL) from 50 parts per billion(ppb) to 10 ppb of arsenic in drinking water. EPA completed the fourth Five-Year Review of the Site and found the implemented remedy is protective of public health and the environment, however, the long term protectiveness of the remedy cannot currently be determined due to the January 2006 change in groundwater MCL from 50 μg/L to 10 μg/L for arsenic. Additional analysis of groundwater data is necessary to define the extent of the 10μg/L arsenic plume and to determine if the current system can meet the more stringent. A draft Explanation of Significant Difference (ESD) was issued on June 24, 2012 to modify the RAO in the ROD from 50 μg/L to 10 μg/L for arsenic standard with a 30-day comment period. The PRPs requested a 15 days extension of comments period and the request was granted. Since comments from PRP were received after the extended comment period, EPA did not address their comments. The final ESD was signed on September 12, 2012.

Site Description

The Whitmoyer Laboratories site, located in Lebanon County, Pennsylvania, occupies 22 acres in a rapidly developing rural residential area. The company manufactured veterinary pharmaceuticals between 1934 and 1984. Arsenic compounds were produced and stored at the site. The site itself featured 17 buildings, 23 storage tanks, a concrete storage vault, 15 lagoons, a waste pit, a petroleum products pipeline and pump station, plus a railroad spur.

The laboratory changed ownership from Whitmoyer to Rohm & Haas in 1964, to Smith-Kline Beecham in 1978, and to Stafford Laboratories in 1982. In 1964, Rohm & Haas detected arsenic pollution in the soils, groundwater, and surface water. The cause of this pollution was previous disposal of wastes in the soils and unlined lagoons. Lagoon sludge was put in a concrete vault built to store the sludge and other contaminated materials.

About 4,700 people use wells within three miles of the site. The closest home is within 50 feet of the site and 1,300 people live within a one-mile radius. A grade school stands a half mile away. Tulpehocken Creek, which has been proposed as part of Pennsylvania's scenic river system, is adjacent to the site.

Site Responsibility
Cleanup of this site is the responsibility of federal and state governments and also parties that EPA holds responsible for cleanup of site contamination.
NPL Listing History
Our 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 (NPL). This site was proposed for NPL listing on October 15, 1984. The site was formally added to the list on July 22, 1987.

Threats and Contaminants

Former disposal practices contaminated the on-site and off-site groundwater, surface water, soil and sediments with arsenic and volatile organic compounds. Wastes in the concrete vault and lagoon were highly contaminated with arsenic and aniline. Health risks exist from drinking contaminated groundwater. This risk, however, has been reduced by connecting affected residents to a public waterline. Potential risks also exist from: direct contact with soils or remaining wastes; accidentally ingesting or inhaling on-site soils, surface waters, or sediments; or inhaling airborne contaminants. The completed soils cleanup work will ensure people and the environment are protected from threat.

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

Cleanup Progress

EPA emergency work began in 1987 by providing bottled water to 20 homes with contaminated drinking water. Emergency work continued in 1988 and 1989 with the removal of drums and laboratory chemicals from the abandoned facility. In 1989, EPA removed waste liquids, transported them off-site for treatment, and disposed of tanks, piping and residues. A total of 335 tons and 16,240 gallons of hazardous wastes were transported to off-site treatment and disposal facilities.

Long-term cleanup began in the fall of 1993 following successful negotiations with the Potential Responsible Parties (PRPs). The initial cleanup focused on decontaminating and demolishing 17 deteriorated buildings. A total of 515 tons of hazardous materials were removed from the buildings; these materials were either incinerated or encapsulated at off-site treatment facilities. Over 785 tons of metal debris were decontaminated and recycled. Approximately 1,290 tons of non-hazardous debris was placed in off-site landfills and 227,000 gallons of wastewater were treated. Demolition and disposal activities were completed in May 1996.

Excavation of highly contaminated carbon, tar, sludge, soil, and debris from an on-site concrete vault was done in several phases. This work started in December 1994 and ended in April 1996. Over 930 tons of carbon and tar wastes were transported to four off-site incinerators in 1996 and 1997. Treatment was completed in June 1999. Over 3,230 tons of arsenic contaminated sludge and debris were treated at an off-site treatment facility between December 1995 and May 1996. An additional 1,415 tons of soils excavated from the vault were transported for off-site treatment and disposal in June 1998.

Work on building a full-scale groundwater treatment facility started in July 1997 and finished in May 1998. The groundwater treatment system reduces contamination by pumping water from 14 groundwater wells and treating it. This pumping and treating keeps contaminated water from reaching the Tulpehocken Creek. The treatment facility processes over 150,000 gallons of contaminated water each day. Groundwater treatment generates approximately 15 tons of recovered wastes each month; these solids are disposed of at an off-site landfill. PRPs' consultant has completed analyzing groundwater monitoring data collected since 1998 and a draft report is expected to submitted in 2004. The preliminary data analysis indicated that the groundwater cleanup system is working as modeled and there is no need for additional extraction wells.

Work on excavating the consolidated lagoon area started in September 1998 and ended in January 1999. Approximately 18,000 tons of lagoon wastes containing almost one million pounds of arsenic were transported via rail cars to an off-site treatment and disposal facility. Over 10,500 tons of the lagoon wastes needed to be treated (fixation) before disposal.

Work to clean up soils and sediments is completed. Hazardous soils were dug up, treated as needed, and disposed of at an off-site landfill. Soil that is either moderately contaminated or lightly contaminated was capped with a two-foot layer of soil. EPA started cleaning up site soils in September 1999 and finished in October 2001. With the issuance of ROD amendment for the soil cleanup in April 2002, all on site construction activities were completed. A Preliminary Close Report (PCOR) outlining all the completed cleanup activities at the site was issued on June 6, 2002

EPA completed the fourth Five-Year Review of the Site and found the implemented remedy is protective of public health and the environment, however, the long term protectiveness of the remedy cannot currently be determined due to the January 2006 change in groundwater MCL from 50 μg/L to 10 μg/L for arsenic. Additional analysis of groundwater data is necessary to define the extent of the 10μg/L arsenic plume and to determine if the current system can meet the more stringent standard. A decision document will be issued to modify the RAO in the ROD from 50 μg/L to 10 μg/L for arsenic.

Jackson Township has decided to replace the bridge located on Fairlane Avenue.  This action requires some digging under Fairlane Avenue, which has contaminated soil.  The repairs are expected to start in Spring 2015 and the PRP will help the Township with safety and disposal of contaminated soil.


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