Jump to main content.



Beginning October 1, 2015, this website will undergo improvements. During this time, access to some information may not be immediately available. For assistance locating information, please contact the Community Involvement Coordinator listed below in the "Contacts" section of this page. Thank you for your patience as we work to improve your access to site information.

U.S. Titanium

EPA Region 3 (Mid-Atlantic)

Nelson County
near the town of Piney River

EPA ID# VAD980705404

5th Congressional District

Last Update: June 2015

Other Names

Piney River Disposal Site

Current Site Status

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is overseeing the cleanup of the U.S. Titanium site where operation of the groundwater collection and treatment system will continue for the foreseeable future. In addition, construction of a hiking trail along a former railroad right-of -way which crosses the site was completed. Cytec remediated acidic soils identified along the right-of-way prior to construction of the hiking trail to protect against possible human exposure. The remediation of the acidic soils and land use restrictions was documented in an Explanation of Significant Differences (ESD) issued on September 25, 2002. Routine monitoring of surface water and groundwater continues to be performed. A small area where the cap eroded was repaired by Cytec in 2013. All other aspects of the remedial action have been completed.

The third Five-Year Review Report for the site was issued on March 24, 2010. The findings of the review include: two gates where the Site access road intersects the trail in Area 8 need to be repaired or replaced and the every five years sampling did not occur in 2008, as scheduled. Both of these deficiencies have been addressed. The gates were repaired by Cytec and, to put the sampling back on schedule, Cytec conducted the every five year sampling in the winter of 2010 and they plan to sample again in the winter of 2013. The Fourth Five-Year Review (PDF) (44 pp, 7.33 MB, About PDF) has been completed.

Site Description

The U.S. Titanium site located in Nelson County, Virginia (5th Congressional District) is a 50-acre site formerly occupied by an American Cyanamid Company plant which refined titanium ore and manufactured titanium dioxide for paint pigments from 1931 until 1971. Following plant closure, the processing plant, settling ponds, tailings ponds, wastewater lagoons and a waste disposal area remained on site. Ferrous sulfate, a highly acidic by-product of titanium dioxide manufacturing, and heavy metals (aluminum, iron, copper, nickel and zinc) are the primary site contaminants. Acidic storm water runoff from the waste piles and ponds and acidic ground water seeps/springs contributed to six major fish kills in the Piney and Tye Rivers from 1977 to 1981. As a result of these releases, more than 200,000 fish died.

The site is located in the town of Piney River which has a population of approximately 100 people. It is estimated that about 200 people live within a 1 mile radius of the site. The closest residence is 1/4 mile from the site. As a result of past waste disposal practices, the on-site groundwater is highly acidic. Local residents use groundwater for their drinking water supply.

Site Responsibility
Cleanup of this site is the responsibility of the federal and state governments, and the potentially responsible parties.
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 remedial action on December 30, 1982. The site was formally added to the list September 8, 1983, making it eligible for federal cleanup funds.

Threats and Contaminants

The groundwater is highly acidic as a result of former plant operations. Aluminum, iron, copper, nickel, zinc, and cadmium from site soils have contaminated the groundwater. These contaminants are also found in both on-site seeps/springs and off-site surface water. Ingestion of or direct contact with contaminated groundwater poses a minor threat, since no residential well contamination has been detected, and municipal wells are located upstream from the site. The acidity of the seeps and springs (surface discharges) could be harmful, as well as increase the solubility of metals, which could enter surface and groundwater. The Piney River has not supported a viable recreational fishery due mainly to the impact from titanium dioxide operations over the last 40 years. The fishery has improved since plant operations were stopped in 1971, and this improvement should continue now that measures have been taken to capture acidic discharges from the site.

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

Cleanup Progress

Cytec Industries, Inc., formerly American Cyanamid Co., entered into a consent decree with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Commonwealth of Virginia in 1991 to perform the cleanup. Seven areas of the site were determined to require cleanup and a description of each is provided as follows:

Cleanup for Areas 1 and 3 was initiated in the summer of 1994 and completed in the fall of 1995. It involved the excavation and treatment with lime (neutralization) of approximately 67,000 cubic yards of ferrous sulfate containing soil in Area 1 with disposal of the treated material in a constructed waste containment cell in Area 3.

Area four consisted of deposited spent ore and other waste products. The selected remedy involved slope stabilization, regrading, placement of soil cover and establishing vegetation. This work was completed in Fall 1996.

Area 5 includes former plant sedimentation basins. The cleanup included flood protection, regrading, placement of soil cover and establishing vegetation.

Areas 2 and 7 include regions of distressed vegetation due to acidic surface water and groundwater discharges adjacent to wetlands. Actions include the neutralization of acidic stream bed sediments and adjacent bare soil with lime followed by regrading and revegetation.

Acidic groundwater is collected in Areas 2, 3 and 4 by a gravity collection system consisting of shallow perforated collection pipes. The groundwater is pumped to an on-site treatment plant and the treated effluent is discharged to the Piney River. The treatment plant and collection system has been in continuous operation since spring 1996.

Because hazardous substances and materials are left in place at the site, EPA will conduct a review at least every five years to make sure the site remains protective of human health and the environment. The next five-year review is scheduled to occur by March 2015.


Site Contacts

Administrative Record Locations

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

Local Navigation

Jump to main content.