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Chisman Creek

EPA Region 3 (Mid-Atlantic)

York County
Suburban York County

EPA ID# VAD980712913

1st Congressional District

Last Update: January 2015

Other Names

Chisman Creek Disposal

Current Site Status

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is overseeing the long-term ground water cleanup of the Chisman Creek site. Construction was completed in December 1988, when EPA, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (VDEQ), Virginia Power (the Potentially Responsible Party), and their contractors agreed that all activities were completed to EPA's specifications and met the full intention of the 1986 and 1988 Records of Decision (RODs). Two of the former sand and gravel pits have been in use since that time; one for baseball fields and the other for soccer fields. The fields were placed on top of caps that were constructed over the pits. Contaminated groundwater is currently pumped from the area beneath the baseball fields and treated off site at a local wastewater treatment plant.

In December 2011, EPA completed the fourth five-year review of the site. As a result of the review, EPA determined that the remedy for the site is protective in the short term. Although the remedial action for Operable Unit 2 (OU2), which addresses surface waters, was found to be protective, the determination that the remedy, overall, is protective in the short term is based on the fact that the extent of the vanadium contaminant plume in the shallow aquifer, which is associated with Operable Unit 1 (OU1), is presently unknown. OU1 addresses groundwater and the four waste pits filled with fly ash. 

Virginia Power has shown that none of the homes in the area of the site that still use wells gets water from the contaminated zone.  In addition, the institutional control that currently prevents use of the groundwater and protects human health and the environment could be terminated in the future.  A more permanent restriction must be put into place by Virginia Power to ensure long-term protectiveness. EPA is presently working with Virginia Power to determine the extent of the vanadium contamination. A new institutional control to restrict ground water use so that it provides the necessary assurance that it will be protective over time cannot be put into place until the full extent of the vanadium contamination is known.

After three rounds of sampling the ground water in the vicinity of Area C, EPA believes only one more round of sampling will be necessary to completely define the extent of the vanadium contamination. That last round of sampling has taken place. EPA is presently waiting for an analysis of alternatives from Virginia Power which will assist EPA to select a remedy for the vanadium-contaminated ground water west of Area C.

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

Site Description

The Chisman Creek site, located in York County, Virginia is a 27-acre site consisting of four former sand and gravel pits in which fly ash (estimated to be more than 500,000 tons) from the Yorktown Power Generating Station was disposed from 1957 to 1974. The fly ash was removed from one of the pits and placed in another pit in the 1970s. In the early 1980s, the Virginia State Board of Health, the Virginia State Water Control Board, and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science sampled residential wells and the surface water in the area of the pits in response to a homeowner reporting discolored well water. These investigations found heavy metal contamination in Chisman Creek and in the groundwater in and near the fly ash disposal areas. The Remedial Investigation performed by EPA determined that the groundwater contamination was localized in the area of the pits. Nickel and vanadium were the most ubiquitous contaminants. Arsenic, beryllium, chromium, copper, molybdenum, and selenium were also detected at elevated concentrations. Approximately 500 to 1,000 people lived within a 1-mile radius of the site in 1986.
Site Responsibility
This site was addressed through federal and state governments and potentially responsible parties' actions.
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. This site was formally added to the list on September 8, 1983, making it eligible for federal cleanup funds.

Threats and Contaminants

Arsenic, vanadium, nickel, selenium, and sulfate have been found in groundwater near the four fly ash pits. Surface water in Chisman Creek was shown to be contaminated with vanadium, nickel, and sulfate. Drinking contaminated groundwater posed a risk to the public. However, long-term groundwater treatment measures are in place to reduce potential risks, and residences with contaminated wells have been connected to the public water supply to ensure them a safe source of drinking water. The subsurface fly ash and pond sediment materials do not pose a public health threat in their present, covered location. Nearby estuaries which were potentially threatened by site contamination are now at significantly reduced risk.

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

Cleanup Progress

In response to the initial investigations, Virginia Power, the potentially responsible party, extended public water lines to those homes in the immediate area of the site with contaminated well water. EPA organized the cleanup into two parts. Part 1 (Operable Unit 1) consisted of the four pits filled with fly ash. Part 2 (Operable Unit 2) consisted of three ponds, a freshwater tributary stream, and the Chisman Creek estuary. A final cleanup decision for Operable Unit 1 was reached between EPA and Virginia in September 1986. In a Consent Decree negotiated between EPA and Virginia Power in 1987, Virginia Power agreed to conduct the design and construction of the remedy. Construction was completed in December 1988. The construction included a low-permeability soil cap; a soil cover; a groundwater collection system and treatment plant; and an alternate water supply for homes still using residential wells.  Additionally, a portion of  a tributary was relocated; deed restrictions were applied; and post-closure groundwater and surface water monitoring was initiated.

At the request of Virginia Power, EPA issued an Explanation of Significant Differences in March 1994 to replace on-site treatment of the groundwater with direct discharge to the publicly owned treatment works (POTW) for treatment and disposal. Over 23 million gallons of contaminated groundwater were treated at the on-site treatment plant. An additional 64 million gallons have been discharged to the POTW. Because of the local community's preference to allow recreational use of the property after completion of the remedial action, EPA approved the construction of softball fields and soccer fields. The award-winning fields are maintained by York County under an agreement with Virginia Power.
The final cleanup decision for Operable Unit 2, reached in March 1988, included surface drainage modifications near one pond and a water quality monitoring program for each of the ponds, the tributary, and the estuary. Construction of the modifications was completed in December 1990.
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 December 2016.


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