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Novak Sanitary Landfill

Current Site Information

EPA Region 3 (Mid-Atlantic)

Pennsylvania
Lehigh County
South Whitehall Township

EPA ID# PAD079160842

15th Congressional District

Last Update: February 2014

Other Names


Valley Disposal Division of Novak Corporation
Novak Landfill

Current Site Status

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is overseeing the cleanup of the Novak Sanitary Landfill Superfund Site (Site) , where a multi-layer cap and an on-site leachate collection system, were completed in September 2002. The cap was revegetated, and the Potentially Responsible Parties (PRPs) will continue to maintain the landfill cap and collect groundwater data into the future. Landfill gas emissions are also monitored and will continue to be monitored. EPA conducted the first Five-Year Review for the Site in March 2006 and determined that the Site is protective of human health and the environment for the short-term. EPA expects the Site to be fully protective of human health and the environment when the groundwater cleanup goals are met, institutional controls are in place and operations and maintenance are continued. The second Five-Year Review was completed in May 2011 and determined that the Site is protective of human health and the environment for the short term.

The first Five-Year Review identified areas that needed further investigation including elevated levels of methane gas in two areas and implementation of institutional controls. The Responsible Parties have completed an investigation of the methane gas, including the installation of additional gas monitoring probes in 2008 and a vapor intrusion (VI) investigation. A pilot investigation into streamlining the leachate system was begun in Spring 2009. An Uniform Environmental Covenant Act (UECA) covenant was considered to strengthen the implementation of institutional controls.

The second Five-Year Review reported progress toward the resolution of the issues identified in the first Five-Year Review. A reduction in the elevated levels of methane gas has been shown and will continue to be monitored. After investigation, vapor intrusion has been determined to not be an issue at the site. The leachate system pilot investigation was completed and EPA is drafting an Explanation of Significant Differences (ESD) document to explain why modification to the system is appropriate. The UECA covenant was signed by the EPA in June 2011 and fulfills the requirements for institutional controls set forth in the Record of Decision (ROD).

Site Description

The Novak Sanitary Landfill site occupies 65-acres in a residential community near Allentown. This privately owned landfill operated from the late 1950s until 1990. The landfill accepted demolition wastes in its abandoned quarry and later accepted municipal and industrial wastes. By 1972, the owner had obtained a solid waste permit from the state and was reportedly disposing organic wastes such as spent solvents and electroplating wastes that contained heavy metals. These organics were placed in trenches that, at the time, were newly excavated. In 1984, the State attempted to revoke the owner's permit because of various violations but was overruled by a state environmental board. By 1988, the last trench on the site was filled to capacity and the owner only accepted small quantities of refuse.

Contamination from wastes threaten the environment because the landfill was poorly engineered. Because the landfill was not adequately covered, rain and surface water formed ponds throughout the site. These ponds mobilized contaminants in the decaying wastes. Because the landfill was not lined underneath, contaminants migrated into the groundwater. The landfill is located in a fractured limestone region, where groundwater can move through the bedrock rapidly and in unpredictable directions. About 17,300 people use 855 public and private wells within 3 miles of the site. Jordan Creek, located 1,000 feet south of the site, is used for recreation.

Site Responsibility

Cleanup of this site is the responsibility of federal, state, and local governments and also parties that EPA holds responsible for cleanup.

NPL Listing History

This Site was proposed to the National Priorities List of the most serious uncontrolled or abandoned hazardous waste sites requiring long-term cleanup action on January 22, 1987. The Site was formally added to the list on October 4, 1989, making it eligible for federal cleanup funds.

Threats and Contaminants

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs), including trichloroethylene (TCE) and vinyl chloride, plus heavy metals have been detected in groundwater and leachate near the disposal areas. Low levels of VOCs were detected in several residential wells off-site. A potential threat to people existed from coming into direct contact with contaminated soil or leachate from the site. A potential threat also existed from accidentally ingesting or inhaling the contaminated groundwater.

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

Cleanup Progress

EPA issued a formal decision on how to address Site contamination based on a study funded by sixteen potentially responsible parties. This 1993 ROD decision called for retrofitting the landfill, including: fencing the Site to keep people out, capping the Site to keep rainwater out, venting the Site to prevent dangerous buildup of gases, installing wells to collect hazardous leachate, and monitoring groundwater on a regular basis to ensure that off-site home wells are not threatened by the Site.

EPA identified more than 50 local companies that sent wastes to the Site and requested that they contribute to the cost of the cleanup. In 1996, seven of those companies were determined to be small contributors ("de minimis"); these seven settled with EPA to pay a small, "fair-share" portion of cleanup costs.

Twenty PRPs did not present, in EPA's judgement, a good faith offer to clean up the Site. EPA issued a legal order to these 20 requiring them to design and carry out the required site work. The PRP group counter-sued parties that EPA was not pursuing for cleanup costs. As a result of these suits, four municipalities agreed to implement part of the remedy. The municipalities' work will include treating leachate collected from the site and collecting samples from homes that are still using well water.

Construction work to cap the landfill began in June 2000. The presence of more trash prompted a redesign of the cap to extend towards the fence line. The presence of rocks in the stormwater retention ponds also hampered the excavation progress. The cap of the landfill and the leachate collection system were completed in September 2002.

The first Five-Year Review, which included data review and a site inspection, determined that the remedy is functioning as intended by the Record of Decision. The landfill cap has been installed and a vegetative cover has been established. The landfill gas monitoring network has also been installed and is operating. The Responsible Parties continue to perform operations and maintenance at the site with both EPA and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection's input. The first Five-Year Review determined that the Site is protective of human health and the environment for the short-term. The second Five-Year Review reported on progress made since the last Five-Year Review and determined that the Site is protective of human health and the environment for the short term. EPA expects the site to be fully protective of human health and the environment when the groundwater cleanup goals are met, institutional controls are implemented and operations and maintenance are continued.

Issues that needed further investigation were identified in the first Five-Year review, including elevated levels of methane gas in two areas and implementation of institutional controls. The Responsible Parties have completed an investigation of the methane gas, including the installation of additional gas monitoring probes in 2008 and a vapor intrusion investigation. A new investigation into streamlining the leachate system was begun in Spring 2009. An environmental covenant to strengthen the implementation of institutional controls was considered.

The second Five-Year Review reported progress toward the resolution of the issues identified in the first Five-Year Review. A reduction in the elevated levels of methane gas has been shown and will continue to be monitored. After investigation, vapor intrusion has been determined to not be an issue at the site. The leachate system pilot investigation was completed and EPA is drafting an Explanation of Significant Differences (ESD) document to explain why modification to the system is appropriate. The UECA covenant was signed by the EPA in June 2011 and fulfills the requirements for institutional controls set forth in the Record of Decision (ROD).

Contacts

Site Contacts

Administrative Record Locations

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


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