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Drake Chemical

Fact Sheet: January 1999, Issue # 17

The Year In Review A Look Back at 1998

Michael McCabe

In Early February, EPA Regional Administrator Michael McCabe came to Lock Haven to discuss cleanup plans with local government officials, citizens' groups and news media.  Here, with McCabe, is radio broadcaster John Lipez at left.

Just before the start of the New Year, the Drake Cleanup Team proudly announced that the project was 75 percent complete. As we begin 1999 with attention focused on returning a clean 10-acre parcel to the Lock Haven community, the Drake Update is taking this opportunity to review the events of 1998 that brought us to this point.

The Team demonstrated its commitment to the community by accomplishing its mission in the safest way possible. The Team remained open, forthright and honest, helping the community maintain close scrutiny of every step of the project. The continuing success is a direct result of the personal efforts of everyone working on the project, including the many employees hired from the Lock Haven area.

The year began as the groundwork was being laid for full-scale operations. A Draft Risk Assessment was published late in 1997, which evaluated data gathered during a series of test operations earlier in the year. The assessment concluded that the project would pose no measurable threat to the health of local residents or to the environment.

Before proceeding on the basis of this assessment, however, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) presented it to a panel of 14 independent scientists. These peer reviewers, drawn from across the country, met at Williamsport in mid-January to discuss and debate the assessment. They concluded that the assessment was properly conducted. Following the peer review, EPA's regional administrator Michael McCabe met with various local officials and groups to discuss plans. EPA hosted a public meeting in Lock Haven so specialists from EPA Region III could present plans and field questions from interested residents. Many issues were discussed during the six-plus-hour meeting, but none raised new concerns that were significant enough to delay cleanup.


Early in the morning of March 4, the first load of contaminated soil was fed into the incinerator to begin the cleanup process.

Over the next few days, several adjustments were made to the clean soil handling system. Initially, water that was sprayed to cool clean soil just out of the incinerator, boiled violently into steam carrying dust into the air. Changes to the spray nozzle system reduced the force of the steam and eliminated the dust problem. Later, a steam scrubber was added as an extra precaution to make certain that the steam emissions remain clean.

Late in March, a routine inspection of the incinerator revealed that some of the refractory blocks that line the cylindrical, rotary kiln worked loose. Since it appeared that this could be handled by replacing the loose blocks and retightening the lining, the incinerator was shut down so this repair could be made. At this point more than 16,000 tons of soil had been successfully processed.

During the month, EPA national ombudsman Robert Martin conducted a series of on-the-record meetings with Lock Haven-area groups. The meetings provided the ombudsman with additional information for his report. Also, the local opposition group Arrest the Incinerator Remediation Inc. (A.I.R.) filed a lawsuit requesting a court injunction to stop the project.


Shortly after resuming work, it became obvious that the refractory block repair would not be sufficient to keep the incinerator operating effectively for the duration of the project. Rather than face frequent repair delays, the Team opted to stop the incinerator and replace the refractory blocks with a cast-in-place refractory lining for the kiln. This decision proved to be very wise since the new cast refractory has performed without problem since its installation in April.

Also this month, the EPA national ombudsman released his report raising several questions about the operation of the Drake incinerator. After careful review, EPA Region III determined that the ombudsman had restated a number of old issues that had been previously addressed and had offered opinions that were not based in fact. EPA decided that the prudent course of action was to continue with the cleanup.

In addition, the Federal District Court gave A.I.R. a two-day hearing to try to convince the court that its assertions of a public health threat had merit. After listening to both sides, the court decided that there was no threat that would warrant an injunction against the project. Furthermore, the judge ruled that the Superfund law, as enacted by Congress, did not permit legal actions to be taken against on-going cleanup projects.

buried.jpg (15339 bytes)

As buried drums were uncovered, as shown here in May, they were carefully segregated and placed into holding containers. Samples were analyzed before drum contents were repackaged for shipment to licensed disposal facilities.


May marked the point where the Team began making steady progress in its cleanup efforts. During the month, the Team passed the point of successfully cleaning, testing and backfilling more than 33,000 tons of soil.


In June, the Team crossed the threshold of surpassing its monthly production goal for the first time a level of productivity that it has achieved every month since. By mid-month more than 57,000 tons of soil had been cleaned and backfilled, and the Team celebrated passing the 20 percent complete mark.

The Team refined its safety procedures to avoid upset conditions from lightening strikes or other storm-caused power interruptions. When thunderstorms approach, operators suspend the feed of contaminated soil so that in the event of a power interruption, the system will already be purged of contaminants.


Progress was now at a steady pace and the completion mark reached 30 percent by mid-month when a total of nearly 80,000 tons had been backfilled.

Serious attention was directed toward the project's completion as various plans for the Site's ultimate contour were developed and considered.


Maintenance continued as a regular part of the process some of the components in the incinerator wear out from handling so much material and require regular replacement. However, maintenance had been incorporated so smoothly into the operations that the necessary delays seemed to create no noticeable break in production. By late August, the Team reported that 40 percent of the Site's soils had been cleaned.

September to December

On Sept. 24, the Team reported that 50 percent of the soil had been cleaned, tested and backfilled onto the property.

Autumn also brought a new school year, and teachers from high schools and colleges throughout the area scheduled tours and classroom presentations so their students could learn more about the technology being used to return a once highly contaminated property to productive use.

By early December, the Team passed the 70 percent completion mark.

Many technical challenges were surmounted during the past year, from the effects of freezing weather on equipment to the effects of heat and humidity on worker health, and the ongoing challenges of components wearing under the strain of processing large amounts of material. What has risen to the surface is the Team's expertise and professional abilities. These factors, above all, are contributing to the success of a very important environmental cleanup project.

Learn More About Drake

Learning about the Drake Site is now easier, thanks to a recently completed reorganization of the Site's information repositories and administrative record (AR). An information repository is a collection of documents providing detailed information about a particular Superfund site. It is an excellent tool for anyone interested in researching a site's history or current status. Each information repository includes an AR, which is the official collection of documents that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has used to make site-related decisions.

In Lock Haven, Drake Site information repositories are located in the Drake Community Outreach Office, adjacent to the project Site, and the Ross Public Library on West Main Street. The repositories consist of two groups of information the AR, which is organized in a system of black loose-leaf binders, and other information repository documents organized by a separate table of contents.

The AR is organized into five sections that are summarized near the front of the first binder, labeled "Volume I." If someone wants to find the latest Record of Decision (ROD) for the site, a quick reference of this summary, entitled "Organization of an Administrative Record File," will show that the ROD and related documents are found in Volume III.

Since all documents in the AR are arranged in chronological order, the ROD can easily be located according to date by checking the document index, also found in the front of the first binder. A search by title is also easy, since the titles of all documents in the AR are listed in the index with their corresponding page numbers.

Organization of the AR follows a standardized structure, used consistantly for all Superfund projects. The sectional structure follows:

Documents in the information repository that are not part of the AR are organized into 19 categories according to subject. A table of contents is posted at each repository to allow citizens to quickly find information on topics of interest. The local information repositories are available for general use at the following hours:

Ross Public Library
232 W. Main Street
Lock Haven, PA 17745
(570) 748-3321
Contact: Andrea Glossner

Hours of Operation:
Monday: 9:00-8:00
Tuesday: 9:00-5:00
Wednesday: 9:00-5:00
Thursday: 9:00-8:00
Friday: 9:00-5:00
Saturday: 9:00-5:00

Community Outreach Center
184 Myrtle Street
Lock Haven, PA 17745
(570) 748-0872
Onsite Outreach Coordinator: George Drumbor

Public Hours:
Monday: 10:00-12:00 and 3:00-5:00
Tuesday: 1:00-5:00
Wednesday: 1:00-3:00
Thursday: 1:00-5:00
Friday: 10:00-12:00 and 3:00-5:00

Saturdays, evenings and additional hours by appointment.

EPA Contacts

U.S. EPA Region 3
1650 Arch Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103

Gregg Crystall (3HS22)
Drake Team Leader

David Polish (3HS43)
Community Involvement Coordinator

184 Myrtle St.
Onsite 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
Thursday: 1:00 - 5:00
Friday: 10:00 - 12:00 and 3:00 - 5:00
Saturdays, evenings and additional hours by appointment

Community Information HOTLINE: (570) 748-5602

Silo Is New Fixture Visible on Drake Skyline

New siloSince early in the production phase, the Drake Cleanup Team has been adding small amounts of quick lime to contaminated soil so it handles better in the equipment feeding it to the incinerator. Changing moisture content in soil affects how soil handles how easily it can be sifted and screened to the proper size and whether the screened soil will reform into sticky clumps. Depending upon soil moisture, up to 2 percent of lime is added to maintain a consistent handling texture.

Until December, lime was purchased in 1,000-pound sacks for this requirement. Purchasing in bulk is more cost effective; consequently the Team recently obtained and installed a silo. Trucks will deliver in bulk directly to the silo, cutting lime costs by about 40 percent and reducing the handling that was required for the individual sacks.

The new silo is visible, above the roofline, between the fly ash handling building (the smaller fixed-roof building) and the debris separation building (the southernmost fabric-covered building). (view large picture)

Team Relocates Debris Equipment

Feed preparation buildingUntil recently, debris, including rock, metal and wood, has been separated from contaminated site soils in its own temporary building within the Drake Site contamination zone. After ten months of excavation, the debris separation building needed to be removed to make way for continued excavation.

In early December, workers, as shown in the photo above, cleared space in the feed preparation building so debris separation equipment could be moved into the same building. Until the completion of the cleanup, contaminated soil will be brought directly to the feed preparation building. Debris will be separated and the soil will be screened into small enough particles to be efficiently treated in the incinerator. (view large picture)

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