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Ryeland Road Arsenic

EPA Region 3 (Mid-Atlantic)

Bucks County
Borough of Womelsdorf
Heidelberg Township

EPA ID# PAD981033459

17th Congressional District

Last Update: January 2015

Other Names


Current Site Status

Site Description

The Ryeland Road Arsenic site consists of five parcels of land covering approximately 7.33 acres. Four of the parcels are on the north side of West Ryeland Road on which Standard Chemical Works Corporation (SCWC) and Allegheny Chemical Corporation (ACC) made pesticides, fungicides, paints and varnishes and disposed of waste. Private residences were located on these four parcels. The fifth parcel is a vacant lot situated on the south side of West Ryeland Road, where SCWC and ACC disposed of waste. A plant nursery is located north of the railroad tracks. An unnamed tributary to Tupelhocken Creek, and an associated wetland area impacted by the Site is located immediately north of the Site on the former Farr Nursery property. The historical Conrad Weiser Homestead is located adjacent to the plant nursery, but is unaffected by the Site.
Site Responsibility

Cleanup of this site is the responsibility of federal and state governments.

NPL Listing History

This site was proposed to EPA's National Priorities List of the most serious uncontrolled or abandoned hazardous waste sites requiring long-term remedial action on March 8, 2004. The site was finalized on the National Priorities List on July 22, 2004.

Threats and Contaminants


Exposure to higher than average levels of arsenic occur mostly in the workplace, near hazardous waste sites, or in areas with high natural levels of the element. At high levels, inorganic arsenic can cause death. Exposure to lower levels for a long period of time can cause discoloration of the skin and the appearance of small corns or warts.


Lead exposure is one of the most serious health concerns in the United States. Lead levels considered safe 20 years ago are now recognized to cause "subclinical poisoning" that affects red blood cells, kidneys, bones, reproductive organs, and the nervous system. All effects may occur without overt physical symptoms.
Recent research has shown that lead is toxic. Of particular concern are lead exposures in children and pregnant women. Blood lead levels as low as 10-15 micrograms/100 c.c. (ug/dl), both before and after birth, are related to delayed mental development, lower IQ, hearing deficits, speech and language handicaps, and poor attention span in children.

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

Cleanup Progress

In August, 1985, in response to a request by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) and Heidelberg Township, EPA initiated a removal action to excavate and dispose of approximately 2,400 cubic yards of arsenic and lead contaminated waste material. EPA removed contaminated soil from three residential properties north of West Ryeland Road. Arsenic and lead contaminated soil was found at the surface to depths greater than two feet.

In July 2001, EPA assessed the site and found high levels of arsenic up to 26,000 mg/kg and lead up to 36,000 mg/kg in surface and sub-surface soils. EPA removed 4,470 tons of contaminated soil off site for disposal. In 2002, more soil sampling showed high levels of arsenic on three of the properties north of West Ryeland Road. Test trenching and sampling identified arsenic contamination up to 44,000 mg/kg at depths of up to seven feet below ground surface. Two feet of contaminated soil was excavated and replaced with clean fill.

EPA signed a Record of Decision in January 2006 to permanently relocate three families, excavate and dispose of approximately 94,000 tons of soil and remove contaminated sediments from down gradient areas. Soil excavation began in the summer of 2006 and was completed in August 2009.

Contaminated soils have been removed and disposed of in off-site permitted landfills. Restoration of properties affected by the clean-up is complete. Phytoremediation using hyper arsenic accumulating Chinese brake ferns to uptake and remove arsenic in contaminated shallow soil along the spring fed creek is underway and has been shown to be effective at this site. Phytoremediation may continue for a few two to three more years depending on the results. A groundwater RI/FS is in progress.

The Environmental Protection Agency signed a Record of Decision in January 2006 selecting the remedy to address the elevated arsenic and lead in residential soils and downstream sediments. EPA began excavating contaminated soil from the vacant lot in the late summer of 2006 and completed the permanent relocation of three residences by the end of 2006. Excavation of the vacant lot continued throughout the winter and was completed in the spring of 2007. EPA also removed the contaminated brick piles from nearby properties and demolished the three vacated homes in the spring of 2007. Excavation of the contaminated soil from the relocated residences and adjacent properties on the north side of Ryeland Road began in the summer of 2007 and was completed in July 2009. All excavated soils were disposed of in off-site permitted landfills; hazardous soils were stabilized before disposal. Excavation of contaminated sediments began in the fall of 2008 and was completed in February 2009. Residential properties affected by the clean-up were restored. A Pilot Study to determine the effectiveness of arsenic uptake by ferns was initiated in May 2007 and was found to be a successful method to reduce arsenic in shallow soils and areas saturated by springs. Phytoremediation efforts have been ongoing since 2009, and soil sample results have shown the ferns are successfully removing arsenic from the soil. To date, over 30% of the area where arsenic contamination once existed along the stream has been cleaned up using the ferns.

A groundwater Remedial Investigation and Feasibility study (RI/FS) is in progress. EPA has completed data collection to support the RI/FS and is in the process of summarizing the data and preparing the reports.

EPA has transferred four parcels of property to Heidelberg Township. The parcels included the areas referred to as the Northern Source Area and Southern Source Area, and made up the Site proper. Soil contamination at the parcels has been remediated.


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