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Butler Mine Tunnel

EPA Region 3 (Mid-Atlantic)

Luzerne County

EPA ID# PAD980508451

11th Congressional District

Last Update: January 2015

Other Names


Current Site Status

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is overseeing the response actions at this site.

The remedy is designed to anticipate future releases of oil from the site.

An automated Administrative Center helps to predict when a future discharge of oil may occur from the Butler Mine Tunnel to the Susquehanna River.

Preparation for future oil recovery activities included constructing access roads and anchors along the Susquehanna river's edge and staging material needed to respond to potential future oil flush outs (booms, boats, etc).

A Consent Decree was negotiated with the potentially responsible parties (PRPs) who implemented the remedy identified in the Record of Decision for the Site.

A Five Year Review (PDF) (66 pp, 3.16 MBAbout PDF) of the Site was completed in 2014.

Site Description

The Butler Mine Tunnel located in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania was constructed in the 1930s to provide mine drainage for an estimated five-square-mile area of underground coal mines. The Butler Mine Tunnel drains into the Susquehanna River. The Site was caused by the illegal disposal of liquid industrial wastes, including oily wastes, into underground mine areas via a mine ventilation borehole which was located at the Hi-Way Auto Service (HWAS) station in Pittston, PA. In 1979, an oily discharge coming from the tunnel created an oil slick on the Susquehanna River. The oil contamination was traced to the illegal dumping at the HWAS borehole. The HWAS borehole was found to drain into underground mine areas which are part of the 5-square miles of underground mine areas for which drainage is provided by the Butler Mine Tunnel. The HWAS borehole is located approximately 3.5 miles from the outlet of the Butler Mine Tunnel into the Susquehanna River. Approximately 25,000 people live within a five-mile radius of the site, and approximately 1,400 people live within the boundaries of the Butler Mine Tunnel site. Also, a number of schools are located within one-mile of the tunnel's discharge point.
Site Responsibility
This site is being addressed through federal, state and potentially responsible party (PRP) actions.
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. This site was proposed to the list on June 10, 1986 and added to the list July 22, 1987.

Threats and Contaminants

The primary threat posed by the Butler Mine Tunnel is a future flushout of oil into the Susquehanna River. A flushout of oil has not occurred from the Butler Mine Tunnel since 1985. A flushout of oil from the Butler Mine Tunnel could posed a threat to the Susquehanna River, which is a source of drinking water and an ecological resource.

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

Cleanup Progress

In 1979, in response to the Butler Mine discharge, EPA emergency personnel installed booms to collect oil from the Susquehanna River. The booms continued to operate until 1980, collecting a total of 160,000 gallons of oil, which contained approximately 13,000 pounds of volatile organic compounds. After the booms were removed, an automated detection system was installed at the tunnel and was operated by the State until 1984, during which time there was no evidence of any additional discharge from the tunnel.

In 1985, approximately 100,000 gallons of waste oil were discharged from the Butler Mine Tunnel, following the heavy rains associated with Hurricane Gloria. EPA once again responded by installing booms on the river and collecting the contaminated oil. The existing monitoring boreholes were sampled, and contaminated vegetation was removed.

In 1987, the potentially responsible parties (PRPs), under EPA oversight, began an investigation to determine the extent of the contamination and to identify the alternative technologies available for cleanup. The investigation is complete and the Record of Decision was issued in 1996.

A Consent Decree was negotiated with the potentially responsible parties (PRPs) who agreed to implement the clean up remedy identified in the Record of Decision. The PRPs completed the remedial design for cleanup in December 2003.

The remedial action at the site (including construction of anchors and purchasing response materials) was completed in September 2005. During the spring 2007, the PRPs performed a training exercise in the Susquehanna River, to test the elements of the flushout-response system, including mobilization of equipment, and on-river boom deployment. Future activities at the site will include on-river training exercises, tunnel monitoring, and flushout-response system deployments for actual or potential oil flush outs.


Site Contacts

Administrative Record Locations

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