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Drake Chemical

Fact Sheet: January 1998, Issue #6

Fourteen Experts Review Drake Risk Assessment  

The recent Peer Review Workshop, held in Williamsport Jan. 14 and 15, gave 14 independent, outside scientists an opportunity to review and discuss the data in the risk assessment and provide their conclusions to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). EPA's Risk Assessment forum organized and sponsored the peer review process. The meeting was chaired by Dr. Yoram Cohen, a chemical engineering professor with the University of California at Los Angeles. 

Other peer reviewers included physicians, professors, meteorologists and other environmental professionals from across the United States. They spent three weeks in December reviewing the Draft Risk Assessment and preparing initial written comments. Peer reviewers toured the incinerator at the Superfund site Thursday, prior to beginning the meeting at noon. 

After introductory comments, peer reviewers met in five subgroups for detailed discussions on the issues of combustion engineering, air modeling, risk assessment, ecology and human health. These subgroups met Thursday afternoon and Friday morning, after which they reassembled for closing comments.

Public Meeting Set for February 10 at LHU 

Community members will have an opportunity to express their opinions on the proposed Drake Chemical incineration project at a public meeting hosted by the EPA on Tuesday, Feb. 10. The meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. in the Ulmer Planetarium on the Lock Haven University campus. 

At the Feb. 10 public meeting, EPA will report on comments from the workshop scientists and its responses to comments. Unless the peer reviewers found any serious flaws in the risk assessment, the incineration of contaminated soil is set to begin mid-February. 

EPA will also make a presentation on the SODAR (Sonic Detection and Ranging) system, which will be used at the Drake site to monitor and forecast weather conditions in Lock Haven. The SODAR system, similar to the ones used at major airports to provide advance information on weather conditions such as wind sheer, will be used to further assure the safety of the incineration process. 

The risk assessment demonstrates that the proposed cleanup of contaminated soil at the former Drake Chemical Co. complex will not pose a threat to public health or the environment. The risk assessment was the result of eight months of studying data collected during the January and February 1997 trial burn at the site. 

A question and answer session will follow the presentation during which the public will be invited to ask questions of The Drake Cleanup Team representatives and scientists.

World-Class Plant Study Assures Safety of Farm Products 

Dr. Charles R. "Dick" Lee, a soil scientist with the U.S. Army's Waterways Experiment Station in Vicksburg, Miss., met again with the Clinton County Farm Bureau in early January to review his study project and its preliminary data. Dr. Lee and his associates have been sampling moss bags, natural mosses and maple leaves from eight sites throughout the area since October 1995 and have been analyzing them to obtain background data on possible contaminants. His colleague, Dr. John M. Skelly, a plant pathologist with Penn State's College of Agriculture Sciences, explained to the Farm Bureau that this is "a world-class study" in terms of the amount of data collected. The EPA-funded study, having established a background -- or baseline -- database, will continue throughout the Drake cleanup incinerator burn to monitor for possible changes in background levels of these substances. 

Nature's Sponges 

Moss bags hanging at the Castanea air sampling station, are replaced every 55 days. Moss in the nylon mesh bags acts as a sponge absorbing a wide range of airborne contaminants. Each bag's contents is processed to determine what may have been in the air during the 55-day sample period.

OHM Mobilizes To Operating Level With 61 New Local Hires

Local Residents Get Priority

The Drake Cleanup Team remediation project contractor OHM Remediation Services Corp. began advertising for plant operating crew before Thanksgiving. OHM needed this time to recruit, hire and train a workforce before operations can begin. All applicants were processed through the Pennsylvania State Job Service Center, before being interviewed by OHM supervisors, so local residents would get priority consideration in hiring. 

During the first week of February the last group of 14 -- out of a total of 61 new hires from the local area -- will begin their training program. All new employees at the Drake site, as with any hazardous materials project, are required by OSHA to take an initial 40-hour training course in hazardous materials operations. This training period follows successful completion of a company-paid medical examination in which applicants must be certified as physically ready to work where the ability to wear a respirator may be required. 

With the newest class of employees on the team, the OHM staff on site will total 125 employees. Of this, 79 have been hired from the local community. In hiring for remobilization, OHM sought employees with a broad range of crafts and skills. Among those recently hired from the local area are process mechanics, operators, quality control technicians, accountant, assistant buyer, electrician, health and safety technicians and senior equipment operators.

The Drake Incinerator: Step-by-Step

Before contaminated soil from the Drake Chemical site can be treated in the incinerator, debris such as rock, concrete, steel and timber needs to be sorted out for separate processing. A trommel screen machine handles this first critical step. The trommel screen is now enclosed in its own building where dust and fugitive emissions from the handling work can be contained.

Safety Milestone!

1997 was a banner year for the safety program at the Drake site. OHM Remediation Services Corp. crews worked the entire calendar year without either an OSHA Recordable Accident or an OSHA Lost Time Accident. In fact, they have worked more than 900 days since the last lost time accident. 

Since OSHA established stringent rules for reporting workplace accidents, firms in all industries track safety performance and can set goals for achieving such outstanding performance.

Sonic Detection and Ranging Gives The Drake Cleanup Team a View of Invisible Weather Conditions

We're all familiar with basic weather measurements such as temperature, barometric pressure, wind speed, wind direction and humidity. We can hold up simple instruments and measure these conditions with ease. But, what about weather conditions such as wind speed and direction at higher elevations, or temperature conditions such as inversions or stagnations? 

Since all of these weather conditions may affect how emissions from the Drake stack will disperse over Lock Haven and the Susquehanna Valley, The Drake Cleanup Team has installed a full spectrum of meteorological instruments including a state-of-the-art Sonic Detection And Ranging, or SODAR, system. The concept of SODAR begins simply enough -- somewhat like radar, only it uses audible sound waves instead of electromagnetic signals -- but once phased array antennae, Doppler shift and miniaturization are added, SODAR represents the latest in weather science.

Three antennae each transmit a series of audible chirping tones into the sky at different angles. Wind and thermal turbulence of air molecules create conditions to reflect some of the sound energy back to the originating antenna. The antenna measures the time delay of each backscattered chirp as well as the Doppler shift in its tone. The controlling computer is programmed to analyze these sound changes and delays, and using the direction and angle of each signal, converts this raw data into specific details about air currents and winds at different elevations. 

When the Drake SODAR is coupled with its companion Radio Acoustic Sounding (RAS) system, air movement at different altitudes is coupled with real-time air temperatures at each monitoring height. Meanwhile, a traditional 120-foot-high meteorological monitoring tower, located adjacent to the SODAR station just east of the Drake project site, collects conventional weather data including precipitation and solar radiation measurements. 

A second SODAR station is located at the Lock Haven W.T. Piper Airport and works in conjunction with the station at the Drake site to provide a more detailed picture of weather patterns over the valley. Meteorological specialists at the Drake project will monitor these invisible weather phenomena and analyze the weather's contribution to emission dispersion. Next month, the Drake Update will discuss how this data will be applied to decision-making during the incinerator's operation.

Want to check the weather at the Drake site? Telephone (717) 748-9635. An automated weather announcement system provides round-the-clock conditions at the Drake meteorological tower.


Technicians, working high on the 150-foot stack at the Drake Chemical incinerator during a recent warm spell, install electrical heat tape to the spiraling stabilizing vanes near the stack top. During last year's mid-winter trial burn, some of the exiting water vapor, which makes up much of the visible stack output, tended to condense and freeze along the spiral vanes. After several options for preventing this potential safety issue were considered, it was decided that the safest alternative was to prevent the formation of ice in the first place. Consequently, electrical heat tape will be used when the temperature drops to freezing, ensuring that workers on the cleanup project are not jeopardized by overhead ice.

EPA Contacts

U.S. EPA Region III
1650 Arch St.
Philadelphia, PA 19103-2029

Gregg Crystall (3HS22)
Drake Team Leader

David Polish (3HS43)
Community Involvement Coordinator

Community Information HOTLINE: 748-5602

184 Myrtle Street I

On-site Outreach Coordinator: George Drumbor

PUBLIC HOURS (Drop-ins invited)

Monday:      10:00 - 12:00 and 3:00 - 5:00
Tuesday:      1:00 - 5:00
Wednesday: 1:00 - 3:00 and 5:00 - 7:00
Thursday:     1:00 - 5:00
Friday:         10:00 - 12:00 and 3:00 - 5:00
Saturdays, 1st & 3rd, each month: 10:00 - 2:00

Additional hours by appointment.

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