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BoRit Questions & Answers - Water and Aquatic Life

BoRit Questions & Answers Main Page

  1. Has EPA tested for asbestos in the drinking water in Ambler, Whitpain and Upper Dublin? (7-3-2010)

  2. Has EPA studied the possibility of asbestos leaching into our groundwater? (7-3-2010)

  3. Does EPA expect asbestos fibers to migrate during severe rainfall events? (8-10-2009)

  4. What is being done to prevent asbestos from getting into the creek? (1-2008)

  5. Can asbestos fibers in water be deposited on downstream banks during high water then become dried and eventually airborne? (1-2008)

  6. Do fibers in the water pose a health threat to human beings? (5-1-2007)

  7. Does EPA plan to prevent asbestos from getting into the waterways?  (3-12-2007)

  8. Is EPA investigating the fish kill or water contamination? (3-12-2007)

  9. What is keeping the asbestos fibers out of the water? (Unknown Date)

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  1. Has EPA tested for asbestos in the drinking water in Ambler, Whitpain and Upper Dublin? (7-3-2010)

    Under the Safe Drinking Water Act, Pennsylvania has asbestos monitoring requirements applicable to public water systems such as those serving the Ambler area. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) has informed EPA and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) that the Ambler Borough Public Water supply is in compliance for the asbestos monitoring requirements. PADEP recalls that Ambler Borough conducted initial asbestos monitoring in the early 1990s after EPA's rule first came out, and the results for this public water system were below the asbestos Maximum Contaminant Level. EPA and ATSDR requested any available asbestos sampling for this system from PADEP and the local water authority.

    EPA is using Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) authority, commonly known as Superfund, to address the conditions at the BoRit Asbestos Site. Superfund was established to address abandoned hazardous waste sites and conduct response actions that permanently and significantly reduce the dangers associated with releases or threats of releases of hazardous substances to the environment. The Safe Drinking Water Act is the main Federal law that ensures the quality of Americans' drinking water. In Pennsylvania, PADEP is delegated the authority for enforcing the drinking water regulations.

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  2. Has EPA studied the possibility of asbestos leaching into our groundwater? (7-3-2010)

    As part of our evaluation of the BoRit Asbestos Site, EPA is conducting a Remedial Investigation (RI) to determine the full nature and extent of contamination. Currently, EPA has just finished the first phase of environmental sampling for the RI (Phase I), which included soil, waste, surface water, and sediment sampling (with some nearby flood plain samples). To obtain water levels, groundwater piezometers were also installed on the Site and groundwater samples were collected. EPA is currently in the process of putting together a report summarizing all this sampling information, and it is anticipated that the report will be completed and shared with the public very soon. Furthermore, EPA has just begun scoping the extent of the Phase II sampling effort and is hoping to conduct this sampling in late summer/early fall 2010. As part of the Phase II investigation, EPA is planning to install a number of groundwater wells on the BoRit Asbestos Site to determine the nature and extent of contamination, if any, in groundwater.

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  3. Does EPA expect asbestos fibers to migrate during severe rainfall events? (8-10-2009)

    EPA does not believe that asbestos would migrate significantly from the site during such a rain event. As has been mentioned several times, vehicles on site are not coming into direct contact with asbestos-containing material as they must stay on the access roads that have been.

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  4. What is being done to prevent asbestos from getting into the creek? (1-2008)

    EPA has developed plans to stabilize the creek sides and eroded areas near the site.

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  5. Can asbestos fibers in water be deposited on downstream banks during high water then become dried and eventually airborne? (1-2008)

    Current testing has shown that this is not a concern under the conditions that we have recently observed.

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  6. Do fibers in the water pose a health threat to human beings? (5-1-2007)

    Some fibers were found in some sediment samples (i.e., higher concentration of .10%). Results from recent sampling events (i.e., April or November 2006) showed no fibers were detected on any of the surface water samples. The only surface water in which asbestos fibers were detected was taken from the reservoir in April 2006. As far as the scenario described above, it is very unlikely.

    During recent sampling events no fibers have been detected in surface water samples taken from the creeks adjacent to the Site. EPA addressed the issue of the aquatic life in its original response because we got some e-mails from concerned residents about dying fish.

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  7. Does EPA plan to prevent asbestos from getting into the waterways?  (3-12-2007)

    As part of EPA's site assessment, we plan to evaluate the need to stop erosion and migration of asbestos into the adjacent watershed. As mentioned above, EPA did detect low concentrations of asbestos in a few sediment samples taken from the Wissahickon Creek. However, it is difficult to accurately distinguish whether it came from the Site (i.e., the asbestos was detected in sample locations both upstream and downstream from the Site) or is a result of the area's history of asbestos manufacturing, or from other sources. In addition, EPA and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection ecological staff have not expressed any concerns regarding health threats to aquatic life.

    Based on the April 2006 validated results, EPA believed that stabilization of the banks and covering some bare portions of the Site were immediate actions necessary to prevent erosion into Wissahickon Creek. However, based on the recent validated results (i.e., October and November 2006); no off-site asbestos migration has been found at levels that pose an unacceptable or significant health risk. Nonetheless, EPA continues to look into different alternatives (e.g., applying some sort of stabilizing agent to the banks that appeared to be eroding into the stream). To date, EPA has not identified an agent that would be suitable for the Site. In addition, EPA is currently reviewing the different long term stabilization alternatives the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recommended for the Site. The report is posted on EPA's BoRit website.

    EPA will not make a final decision about a response action, if any, for the Site until the sampling program has been completed. At that time, EPA will decide which option, if any, will be selected for the Site.

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  8. Is EPA investigating the fish kill or water contamination? (3-12-2007)

    Last year's fish kills in the Wissahickon Creek were due to a chemical release. The fish kills in the Wissahickon Valley Watershed Association Reservoir were due to oxygenation and bacteriological causes. Neither of the fish kills were related to asbestos.

    EPA sampled the three bodies of water (i.e., Tannery Run, Rose Valley Creek and Wissahickon Creek) adjacent to the Site in November 2006. We collected nine surface water samples and they all came back clean (no asbestos detected). We also collected 22 sediment samples. Asbestos fibers were found in 3 of 22 sediment samples (up to 0.10%). Since one of the three samples, in which asbestos was detected, was collected upstream, the results do not indicate that asbestos in the sediment necessarily came from the Site. In addition to the low concentration detected in those three sediment samples, the samples were taken from a far upstream (background) location, a far downstream location, and the remaining one was somewhere in the middle. This suggests either that the asbestos levels detected could be background levels, or that there might be a source other than the Site.
     
    The April sampling also got hits on the upstream and downstream sediments samples.
    Nothing was detected in the water samples from the Wissahickon, just in a water sampling from the reservoir. In addition, the streams adjacent to the Site were surveyed.

    The results of the benthic survey performed by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) showed that the Wissahickon Creek in the reach examined remains impaired from municipal point sources (e.g., nutrients) and non-point sources (e.g., nutrients, siltation, water and flow variability). Although disposed asbestos products were observed on the stream substrate and banks, there was no evidence that asbestos materials were contributing to these impairments (PADEP memo dated January 24, 2007 - posted on the website).

    EPA shared the water and sediments results with its Biological Technical Assistance
    Group (BTAG). They evaluate the ecological risk. They reviewed the validated results and did not express any concerns or a need for follow-up investigation activities.
     
    For information about what BTAG is and its role of in ecological assessments go to http://www.epa.gov/oswer/riskassessment/ecoup/pdf/v1no1.pdf.
     
    The results of the benthic survey performed by PADEP showed that the Wissahickon Creek in the reach examined remains impaired from municipal point sources (e.g., nutrients) and non-point sources (e.g., nutrients, siltation, water and flow variability). Although disposed asbestos products were observed on the stream substrate and banks, there was no evidence that asbestos materials were contributing to these impairments (PADEP memo dated January 24, 2007 - posted on EPA's BoRit website).

    All water sample results are available on the BoRit website.

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  9. What is keeping the asbestos fibers out of the water? (Unknown Date)

    EPA's water sampling revealed no asbestos fibers in the surface water, therefore there was no need to determine what mechanism was in effect to keep fibers out.

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