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Sharon Steel/Fairmont Coke Works

EPA Region 3 (Mid-Atlantic)

West Virginia
Marion County

EPA ID# WVD000800441

1st Congressional District

Last Update: January 2015

Other Names

Fairmont Coke Works

Current Site Status

Now that the major sources of contamination have been eliminated, ExxonMobil (EM) is nearing the completion of a study focusing on ground water and any residual contamination which may be present in the LOS area. EPA expects to complete a Remedial Investigation and Feasibility Study (RI/FS) and present a Proposed Plan for final actions at the Site by June 2015. The proposed plan will be released for public comment prior to a final decision.

The final report documenting completion of cleanup activities in several on-site contaminant source areas, including the North and South Landfills and the Former Process Area was approved on September 28, 2011. Contractors for EM successfully excavated waste coal by-products including "coke breeze" from two historic landfills and "recycled" the material by blending it with coal and other materials to produce a non-hazardous artificial coal product. The product was burned as a fuel in a electricity-generating power plant. The waste recycling effort was used to generate over 527,000 megawatts of electricity – enough to power more than 42,000 typical West Virginian homes for one year. Over the course of 8 years approximately 20,000 truck-loads of synthetic fuel and another 10,000 truck-loads of wastes were hauled off the Site.

Site Description

The Fairmont Coke Works Site is located in Fairmont, Marion County, West Virginia. The Site consists of approximately 97 acres. Approximately 64 acres of the site were used for coke plant operations, waste treatment, and waste disposal. The remaining 33 acres consists of a wooded hillside which descends to the Monongahela River at the southern portion of the Site. A church is located approximately 50 feet to the south of the southeast boundary of the Site. The eastern portion of the site is adjacent to a trucking company, a propane company and several private residences. The Big John's Salvage Superfund site is adjacent to the western boundary of the Site. Former site operations included manufacturing coke and refining coal tar by-products. These by-products included: phenol, ammonium sulfate, benzene, coal tar, toluene, xylene, and coke oven gas.
Site Responsibility
This site is being addressed through federal, state 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 June 17, 1996. The Site was formally added to the list December 23, 1996, making it eligible for federal cleanup funds.

Threats and Contaminants

Removal Actions have been performed to control the immediate threats posed by hazardous substances present on-Site. Hazardous coal tar constituents are present on Site, including benzo(a)pyrene, naphthalene, and benzene. Access to the Site was unrestricted at the time the site was listed on the NPL. Residential areas nearby presented the potential for exposure of individuals to hazardous substances. EPA is currently overseeing an assessment of risks which may be presented by residual chemicals in ground water at 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

During August and September of 1990, the owner of the Site removed 11,000 tons of waste tar from the on-site sludge impoundments. The material was disposed at an off-site facility. The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) requested EPA assistance to ensure a more comprehensive cleanup. EPA completed an emergency removal action between May 1993 and August 1996. The primary contaminant source areas were identified as follows: North and South Landfills, Oxidation Ponds #1 and #2, the Redeposited and the Upper Sludge Ponds, the Breeze Washout Area, and the Light Oils Storage Area. Secondary source areas included the Breeze Pile, the Main Tar Pit, and the Coke and Coal Storage Areas. During the Removal Action the following hazardous wastes were removed and properly disposed of off-site: 976 tons of coke works sludges; 112,514 gallons of tank liquids; 1,280 cubic yards of process solid wastes; 23 lab packs; 168 cubic yards of asbestos-containing material; 60 pounds of pourable mercury; 221,955 gallons of wastewater; and 34,382 tons of oxidation pond sludges.

The following actions were also accomplished during the Removal Action: extensive storm water controls were installed throughout the Site; acidic tar sludges from both on-site oxidation ponds were stabilized; 11,850 cubic yards of acidic breeze material were removed from the breeze washout area (which included portions of some citizens' back yards) and staged in the upper sludge impoundment on-site; 50,000 cubic yards of material from the North Landfill were stockpiled by the west end of the landfill to allow discharge of clean storm water from the Site; and the North Landfill was covered with a temporary soil cap. EM, the potentially responsible party, entered into a Consent Order on September 17, 1997 (RI/FS Consent Order), wherein EM agreed to conduct a RI/FS to identify risks presented to human health and the environment and determine what additional cleanup actions are appropriate.

In November of 1997, EM approached EPA with a proposal to do a Project XL pilot at this Site. Project XL was created by EPA to test the idea that innovative environmental management strategies which allow more flexibility in scheduling and technical approach may result in a faster and more thorough cleanup. In May 1999, EPA approved EM's proposal making this Site the first Superfund site nation-wide to be cleaned up under Project XL. EPA, WVDEP, EM, and the Fairmont Community Liaison Panel signed the Final Project Agreement, which outlined how the project would proceed. As part of Project XL, EPA executed a Consent Order (Removal Order) with EM on December 11, 1998 for implementation of a Non-time Critical Removal Action. The Removal Order suspended the requirements of the RI/FS Order until after the removal activities were completed.

EPA approved a phased environmental assessment and cleanup approach calling for excavation of buried wastes acting as a source of continuing contamination to underlying ground water to be followed by an assessment of contaminated ground water. Action Memoranda were issued in June 2000 and July 2003, addressing the North and South Landfills (Phase I) and the Process Area (Phase II), respectively. Recycling the two landfills began in early 2003.

In Fall 2008, EM completed excavation activities in the North Landfill. In December 2010, excavation was completed in the By-products area and the South Landfill. The btu-rich waste materials excavated from the North and South Landfills and some "hot spots" of soil in the former process area were processed on-site to produce 493,054 tons of non-hazardous, artificial coal product. The product was burned as a fuel in a power plant generate over 527,000 megawatts of electricity – enough to power more than 42,000 typical West Virginian homes for one year. In addition, 238,342 tons of contaminated soil and wastes with a low BTU-value or otherwise unsuitable for recycling were characterized and transported to appropriately permitted off-site facilities for treatment and/or disposal during the entire project including the Light Oil Storage (LOS) Area. Since final cleanup standards had not been established for the LOS area prior to removal work, the post-excavation LOS Area will be assessed during the final Remedial Investigation. Over the course of 8 years approximately 20,000 truck-loads of synthetic fuel and another 10,000 truck-loads of wastes were hauled off the Site. The Final Report documenting completion of removal actions was approved by EPA on September 28, 2011.

On September 28, 2011, EPA reactivated the RI/FS Order. Consistent with the Project XL Agreement, EM is conducting a Remedial Investigation and Feasibility Study focusing on contaminated ground water and any other residual contamination that may remain on the Site. The RI/FS is scheduled to be completed in spring 2015 and a Record of Decision for the site is planned for September 2015.

Residual contamination which reached the Monongahela River during historic operations has commingled with wastes from the adjacent Big John Salvage Superfund Site. Accordingly, waste materials in the river are being addressed jointly by responsible parties from both Sites in accordance with a consent decree entered in U.S. District Court in October 2012.


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