Austin Avenue Radiation
Current Site Information
EPA Region 3 (Mid-Atlantic)Pennsylvania
Lansdowne, East Lansdowne, Aldan, Darby, Yeadon Boroughs, Upper Darby Township
EPA ID# PAD987341716
1st Congressional District
Last Update: June 2006
No future updates planned
Current Site StatusThe U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has deleted the Austin Avenue site from the National Priorities List, a list of the nation's most hazardous waste sites. The Site Notice of Deletion was published in the Federal Register April 18, 2002, and the site has been deleted from the NPL. The close-out report for the site was finalized in August 2001, and the Site's five-year review demonstrates that the cleanup has been effective. No additional five-year reviews or institutional controls will be needed at the site, as all cleanup goals have been met. All the properties at the Austin Avenue Site have been returned to their original owners or transferred to the local municipalities in which they lie.
Site DescriptionThe Austin Avenue Radiation site consists of 40 properties located in Lansdowne Borough, East Lansdowne Borough, Upper Darby Township, Aldan Borough, Yeadon Borough, and Darby Borough, Pennsylvania. Contamination of these properties resulted from the disposal of radioactive materials generated by W. L. Cummings Radium Processing Co. This company conducted radium refining operations from 1915 to 1925. Radium tailings resulting from these plant operations were mixed with materials used to construct buildings or used for fill material at the various properties in Delaware County. In 1991, an advisory was issued to the area by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). In the advisory, the nearby population was warned of the significant risks posed to their safety and health by the radium, thorium, radon, and asbestos present in the structures.
Site ResponsibilityThis site is being addressed through federal action.
NPL Listing HistoryOur 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 added to the National Priorities List. This site was proposed to the list on February 7, 1992 and formally added to the list October 14, 1992.
Threats and ContaminantsRadium, thorium, radon, and asbestos were present in buildings and other structures located on the contaminated properties at the time the site was placed on the NPL. Coming into contact with or accidentally ingesting contaminated solids could have posed a public health risk. EPA also investigated the potential for groundwater contamination from the site and did not find a threat. Cleanup actions at the site were completed by February 1998, and the health threats posed by radioactive materials and asbestos have been alleviated.
Contaminant descriptions and risk factors are available from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, an arm of the CDC.
In June 1994, following a comprehensive site investigation, the EPA selected a remedy to clean up the site. The remedy included the removal of materials contaminated with radioactive waste, the demolition of contaminated houses, the repairing of one contaminated house, the permanent relocation of residents of eight of the demolished houses, the rebuilding of ten of the houses, and the removal of contaminated soils on 21 different properties in five municipalities.
Under an Interagency Agreement with the EPA, the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers cooperated on the design phase for the remedy selected in 1994. Site cleanup activities began in late 1995 and were completed in November 1997. All the permanent residential relocations have been completed. All radiologically contaminated structures have been dismantled, and the associated contaminated soils on the affected properties have been excavated and shipped off site for disposal. Excavation of the warehouse property, the most heavily contaminated property, began in April 1997 and was completed in November 1997. EPA and USACE transferred ownership of the warehouse property back to its owner. By February 1998, all 11 home rebuilds were completed, and the properties were returned to their respective owners. Some properties were not rebuilt, because the home owners chose to be permanently relocated. These properties have been transferred as vacant lots to the local municipalities in which they lie, as requested by the municipalities which agreed to assume ownership and to use the properties for the benefit of the communities.
In September, 1996, EPA issued a No Action Record of Decision for groundwater at the site. The total amount of radiologically contaminated materials disposed off site was 241 rail cars (approximately 20,000 tons). A five-year review was completed and demonstrates that the cleanup has been effective.