Jump to main content.


Drake Chemical

Fact Sheet: July 1998, Issue #11

Workers Manager Drums With Special Care

A worker examine drum fragments before placing them in an overpack drumDuring decades of chemical manufacturing, Drake Chemical Company workers poured waste chemicals into large ponds that made up most of the 10-acre property. Workers also tossed drums containing various wastes, including sludges, solids and liquids, directly into the ponds. Over the years, these drums settled to the bottom and were eventually covered with silt. Most drums were dumped prior to the 1970s. Although many rusted through, some have survived and still hold contaminated material.

Now, as the Drake Cleanup Team excavates soil on the site to clean it, workers are uncovering the old drums and drum fragments. In May, the team uncovered nearly 70 drums containing contaminated material.

Because the agreements and contracts governing the Drake cleanup process restrict incinerator use to treating site soils only, the drums must be treated offsite. The team takes special care in managing each drum so that workers and the community are protected as drums and drum fragments are prepared for processing elsewhere.

When unearthed, health and safety technicians check the drums and drum fragments to measure chemical emissions that may be coming off them and to determine which safety procedures need to be followed to handle them safely.

Separating Waste Drums

The first step before sending the drums offsite for treatment is overpacking: the old drum is carefully placed into an oversized drum, which will securely hold the drum and its contents. The overpack drum is sealed, tagged and inventoried for control purposes. Before the drum can be taken offsite, its contents must be identified. A technician samples each drum and sends it to a laboratory for fingerprint analysis, which identifies contents in different drums that are chemically compatible and can be mixed together.

Once fingerprinted, the drums are sorted into groups of compatible material. Before the drum contents are combined, technicians collect a small sample from each of the drums that are thought to be compatible, and mix the samples to ensure that no chemical reactions result from combining them.

Before shipping the drums offsite, however, the mixed contents must again be analyzed. This is done to establish a profile of the contents using a method called toxicity characteristic leaching procedure (TCLP). With the TCLP complete, arrangements can be made with a licensed hazardous waste treatment facility to receive this material and properly dispose of it. Occasionally, the disposal facility will ask for additional analysis, which the team will conduct before shipping the wastes.

With the safety of mixing verified, the contents of compatible drums are combined in large containers for shipment to offsite, licensed hazardous waste disposal facilities. Drum wastes are always shipped under Department of Transportation regulations and other appropriate guidelines.

Fragments and Empty Drums

Pieces of old drums and empty drums must be RCRA empty, a technical determination under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act that regulates the safe transportation of such materials. Technicians remove any site soil that may be clinging to the drums or fragments. Then the metal is loaded into a container for proper disposal offsite. The various regulatory and safety measures ensure that the contaminated drums are safely disposed.

Incinerator Success: The Baird & McGuire Superfund Site

The recent successful completion of soil cleanup at a Superfund site in Massachusetts again demonstrates the effectiveness of soil incineration when faced with a large property that has been contaminated with a complex mix of chemical wastes.

On June 17, 1997, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Region I announced the successful completion of the soils cleanup at the Baird & McGuire (B&M) Superfund Site, the nation's 14th most contaminated hazardous waste site. The site is located in Holbrook, Massachusetts, approximately 14 miles south of Boston. Like Drake, OHM Remediation Services Corp. (OHM) operated an onsite incinerator to clean up 241,945 tons of contaminated soil. The B&M Cleanup Team was composed similarly to the Drake Cleanup Team: the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), EPA Region I and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection.

In addition, the B&M Team included the B&M Task Force, a group unique to that site. The task force was composed of the government partners involved with the site, as well as residents from the three towns nearest the site: Randolph, Holbrook and Braintree. Each of the towns appointed residents to sit on the task force. One resident and the district's state representative co-chaired the task force.

Baird & McGuire Site History

From 1912 to 1983, Baird & McGuire Inc. operated a chemical manufacturing and batching facility similar in operations to Drake Chemical. EPA found more than 100 different chemicals in the onsite soils including dioxin; heavy metals such as arsenic and lead; creosotes; pesticides such as chlordane; and volatile organic compounds. Due to the large variety of contaminants, EPA determined that the most effective method to clean up the soils was incineration. (The Drake Site soils are also contaminated with a wide variety of chemicals, but the mix is quite different. At Drake, the leading concern is the carcinogen, beta-naphthylamine, or BNA.)

The Cleanup Project

In 1992, EPA Region I awarded a contract to OHM to construct a mobile soil incinerator with USACE. Like Drake, the incinerator was a rotary kiln. OHM conducted a trial burn in January 1995 and EPA accepted the results. The incinerator began full-scale operation on June 15, 1995, operating 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with cool down for periodic maintenance. The project included excavating contaminated soil and sediment, safely treating the soil and sediment by incineration, backfilling the ash onsite (after passing tests to show it no longer posed a health threat), covering the ash with clean topsoil and seed. The soil cleanup at Drake operates the same way.

Throughout the B&M cleanup , there was air and stack monitoring to ensure the health and safety of residents and workers. The types of monitoring were similar to those used at the Drake Site: real-time, time-integrated and extensive stack monitoring. The stack monitoring at B&M showed emissions to be much less than allowed by federal standards. For example, arsenic and lead emissions were almost 1,000 times lower than allowable limits.

Once incineration was complete, OHM removed all the equipment, dismantled the building that housed the incinerator, crushed the building's concrete foundation and buried it onsite, covered the area with ash and topsoil, and seeded it. Currently, the groundwater treatment plant (which is cleaning the contaminated groundwater) is operating onsite. The entire cost of the project was $133 million, which included all the site studies, reports and designs; the incineration contract; and the construction and operation of the groundwater treatment plant.

EPA is now conducting a feasibility study to suggest future uses of the site property. The Baird & McGuire Trust and the town of Holbrook, both of whom own portions of the property, will decide the site's future use. However, any use must not interfere with the operation of the groundwater treatment plant, the extraction wells in place or the clean soil.

The two-year soil cleanup process at B&M eliminated a serious health threat in the community. Where only a few years ago it was unsafe to walk on the contaminated ground, the soil is now free of contaminants. The air is also clean, allowing residents to breath freely, knowing that the major threat at the B&M property is gone.

Visit EPA Region I's web site at http://www2.epa.gov/aboutepa/epa-region-1-new-england, or the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection at http://www.mass.gov/eea/agencies/massdep/ for more information.

Winners of the Poster Contest

Poster contest winners

David Polish (left), the EPA Community Involvement Coordinator for Drake, presents Amber Ramser (center) and Autumn Glass (right) with plaques for winning the Drake Poster Contest. Amber won for Most Artistic and Autumn won for Best Slogan.

Drake Cleanup Team Helps Build New Parking Lot

Drake cleanup team helps build new parking lot

The Drake Cleanup Team spreads gravel at the Taggart Field parking lot in June. The team originally constructed the lot in an agreement with the City of Lock Haven granting the team permission to use the original Taggart parking lot for employee parking. When the city asked for help improving the new parking lot at the community recreation fields, the team donated gravel as well as the equipment and workers to regrade the surface. The clean gravel was left over from the Drake Site parking lot.

Drake Surpasses 20% Clean Mark

Through mid-June, the Drake Cleanup Team has backfilled more than 44,900 tons of cleaned soil from this former chemical company property onto the site. When added to the more than 12,900 tons of soil that were successfully cleaned and backfilled during the risk and trial burn phases in early 1997, more than 20% of the total contaminated soil here has been cleaned and returned to the site.

The team continues to work 24 hours a day, seven days a week, cleaning soil. Recently, several repairs interrupted operations, but maintenance downtime has remained within the expected levels.

The repairs focused on the caustic scrubber system, the last air pollution control step that cleans the gas stream before it exits the main stack. Since the combustion of some materials creates an acid component in the gas stream, the Drake incinerator has a caustic scrubber to ensure that any acid formed during combustion is removed before the gas exits the stack. During May and June, the team repaired and replaced portions of a recirculation pump. The team also repaired fiberglass piping to the scrubber nozzles.

With spring and early summer bringing frequent thunderstorms to the Susquehanna Valley, the team is taking special care to avoid problems caused by lightning. Lightning poses an obvious threat to workers out in the open, but it is also a concern because of the increased possibility of electrical power interruption. A power outage causes a safety valve on the incinerator, the TRV, to open, releasing gases before they have gone through the final two stages of pollution control.

Because the opening of the TRV is intended to prevent potentially dangerous conditions, the scientists evaluating the incinerator's risk potential assumed that the TRV would open 36 times, for a total of more than 12 hours, during the 18-month incineration. Even with the 36 openings, the scientists concluded that the incinerator would not pose a threat to residents of the Lock Haven community, nor to the local environment. Still, the team does not want to risk opening the TRV if the likelihood of an unplanned opening can be reasonably predicted. When the soil feed to the incinerator is shut off for 30 minutes, the incinerator has time to purge itself, allowing the TRV to be opened safely in a planned manner. Consequently, whenever lightning is present in the immediate area, the team shuts off hazardous feed to the incinerator.

Recently, the team began unearthing old drums buried at the bottom of the chemical company's lagoons. See the article on page 1 for more information.

Partner Highlight: OHM Remediation Services Corp.

OHM is the largest firm dedicated to onsite remediation and environmental construction services in the United States. The company's mission is to fully eliminate or reduce the volume, mobility or toxicity of hazardous, toxic and radioactive wastes at industrial and government-owned facilities. OHM accomplishes this mission by applying a variety of onsite remediation technologies at client project sites.

OHM was founded in 1969 as Kirk Bros. Inc., a municipal wastewater treatment plant construction company in Findlay, Ohio. The company entered the environmental services business in the early 1970s when its employees began assisting with transportation incidents in which diesel fuel and other oil and chemical products required cleanup. Since its founding, OHM has completed more than 30,000 projects using different remediation technologies, including: soil excavation, offsite treatment and disposal, groundwater and wastewater treatment, onsite source control and containment, solidification/stabilization, soil vapor extraction/soil washing/solvent extraction, bioremediation, thermal treatment, and environmental emergency response.

On January 14, 1998, OHM entered into a merger agreement leading to the acquisition of OHM by International Technology Corp. (IT) The new IT will be one of the strongest environmental remediation firms, with expanded engineering and consulting capabilities.

OHM recognizes that the health and safety of employees, subcontractors, client personnel and the surrounding community is of paramount importance. OHM's safety philosophy emphasizes six points:

  1. All injuries can be prevented.
  2. Management is responsible for preventing injuries.
  3. Working safely is a condition of employment.
  4. Operating hazards can and must be safeguarded.
  5. Training employees to work safely is essential.
  6. Prevention of personal injuries is good business.

The firm's goal is "Zero Accidents" on every OHM project site. OHM's health and safety rates are among the best in the industry.

OHM's primary responsibility in the Drake Cleanup Team is to complete the remediation work safely, efficiently and in compliance with regulatory requirements. At the Drake Site, OHM performs the following remediation work:

OHM maintains health and safety and quality control personnel onsite to assist project management in ensuring the work is performed safely and in compliance with contract and regulatory requirements.

As an integral part of the Drake Cleanup Team, OHM provides the team with extensive experience in the operational means and methods needed to perform the remediation work. This experience allows the team to make decisions that meet regulatory objectives while optimizing operational safety and efficiency.

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


Local Navigation


Jump to main content.