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Frontier Chemical Waste Process, Inc. - Royal Avenue Site

Other (Former) Names of Site: None

EPA Identification Number: NYD043815703
Facility Location: Royal Avenue and 47th Street, Niagara Falls, New York 14303 Link to the site map
Facility Contact Name: None
EPA Contact Name: Ellen Stein, (212) 637-4114, stein.ellen@epa.gov
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) Case Manager: Jeff Konsella, Project Manager, (716) 851-7220, jakonsel@gw.dec.state.ny.us
Last Updated: October 2009
Environmental Indicator Status: Human Exposures Under Control [PDF 1.78 MB, 23 pp] has been verified.
Groundwater Contamination Under Control: No status has been recorded.

Site Description

Frontier Chemical Waste Process, Inc. is located in the city of Niagara Falls, New York. It occupies approximately nine acres and is bordered by Royal Avenue on the south and 47th Street on the east. The facility is located in a heavy industrial/commercial area. Several large industrial facilities surround the facility. The closest residential area is located about ½ mile west and the closest off-site building is located 300 feet away. The Niagara River lies within one mile south of Frontier.

The site dates back to 1906 when it was owned and operated by the International Minerals and Chemical Company as a caustic chlorine (mercury cell) production plant. Sludge ponds associated with this operation were utilized for liquid sludge disposal from caustic soda production. Although these ponds have been removed, they may have contributed to the contamination of the site.

Frontier Chemical Waste Process Inc. moved its operations from its Pendleton location (EPA #NYD991292053) to Royal Avenue in Niagara Falls. Between 1974 and 1992, Frontier Chemical operated a Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) facility at the site at which a wide variety of listed and characteristic hazardous wastes were stored and treated. 

Site Responsibility and Legal Instrument

Record of Decision for Operable Unit #1 (OU1) was issued in March 2006, and a Consent Order for the Supplemental work, including an additional contaminated soils delineation for OU1 and Remedial Investigation / Feasibility Study for Operable Unit #2 (OU2), was executed in August 2008, by DEC with the potentially responsible parties (PRPs) group.

Potential Threats and Contaminants

The site contaminants are mainly volatile organic compounds (VOCs), semi volatile organic compounds (SVOCs) to the lesser degree. The most concentrated contamination is located well below the ground surface where public contact with wastes is unlikely. The site is fenced and secured which minimizes the potential for public exposures to on-site contamination.

The surrounding area of the site is mostly industrial. The majority of the buildings on the Site have been demolished, although some smaller buildings and structures remain. The Site is completely fenced and the majority of the surface of the site is covered by either concrete or blacktop. Several large areas of demolition debris also occupy areas on the surface of the site.

The nearest residence is approximately about ½ mile west of the site and is supplied with public water. There are no private wells in the immediate area, so exposures via drinking water, are not expected. Vapor intrusion should not be an issue because where the plume has spread off site, it is intercepted by the adjacent Falls Street and New Road tunnels, and thus there is no off-site contaminant plume. High concentrations of organic contaminants exist in soil and groundwater.

Non-aqueous phase liquids (NAPL) have been found in both the overburden and bedrock groundwater. NAPL has also been detected immediately adjacent to the unlined Falls Street Tunnel. NAPL will continue to act as a source of groundwater contamination. Since many of the VOCs are denser than water, it is likely that the NAPL is a dense NAPL (i.e., DNAPL).  Samples of DNAPL were obtained in 1988 from two wells in the B-Zone (see page 6 for zone description).
 
The site was divided into two Operable Units (OUs): OU1 (overburden soils, overburden groundwater, and upper bedrock groundwater: A-Zone and B-Zone), and OU2 (deep bedrock groundwater: C-Zone, and deeper).

Overburden and upper bedrock groundwater contamination is effectively intercepted by the adjacent Falls Street and New Road tunnels. As such, there is no off-site contaminant "plume" associated with overburden and shallow bedrock groundwater contamination. The deeper bedrock groundwater characterization plan is addressed in the November 2007 Supplemental Soil Characterization and Pilot Test Work Plan.

Cleanup Approach and Progress

Inadequate operation and maintenance at the facility, including uncontrolled releases of hazardous wastes, led the State Department of Conservation (NYSDEC) to issue a Summary Abatement Order in December of 1992. When the facility failed to comply with the Order, the NYSDEC requested the USEPA to conduct an emergency response action at the site. The USEPA has initiated this action and later had negotiated a voluntary agreement with a group of Proposal Remedial Plans to remove over 4,000 drums of waste, remove waste from the 45 storage tanks on the property. The waste was removed and properly disposed off-site. This action was completed in early 1995.

The hydrogeological investigations at the site have identified significant organic contamination in on-site soils, and in the overburden and bedrock groundwater. The area of maximum overburden contamination, as evidenced by the presence of non-aqueous chlorinated organics, centers around the former hazardous waste sludge settler, transfer operations, and chemical storage tanks that were used to store solvents. NAPL has been detected in bedrock monitoring wells located at the property line immediately adjacent to, and at the same elevation as, the unlined Falls Street tunnel. Dry weather flow, and nearly all wet weather flow, through the tunnel is treated in the Water Board’s Waste Water Treatment Plant. Groundwater elevation data confirm that groundwater flow across the site is toward the tunnel.

The RCRA Facility Assessment (RFA) identified 184 SWMUs, and an RCRA Facility Investigation (RFI) was imposed in 1986. ICMs were approved by NYSDEC but never imposed because of Frontier’s financial insolvency. A State funded Remedial Investigation/Feasibility Study (RI/FS) began in 2001, using site data available from previous RCRA investigations, supplemented with data from a NYSDEC State Superfund Funds Supplemental Remedial Investigation.

The Supplemental RI report was approved in Nov. 2002. The FS report was approved in June 2004. The Proposed Remedial Action Plan (PRAP) for Operable Unit #1 (soils + overburden and shallow bedrock groundwater: A-Zone and B-Zone) was released in January 2006, followed by the Record of Decision in March 2006.
 
The Record of Decision

The Record of Decision (ROD) presents the selected remedy for Operable Unit #1 (OU1) of the Frontier Chemical Royal Avenue site, a Class 2 inactive hazardous waste disposal site. ROD for OU1 (overburden soils, overburden groundwater, and upper bedrock groundwater: A-Zone and B-Zone,) was published in March 2006.  The selected remedy is the removal and treatment of soil contaminant "source areas" with groundwater control and treatment. The components of the remedy are as follows:

NYSDEC has estimated that the cost of implementing the Record of Decision (ROD) plus additional site activities could exceed $14,000,000. NYSDEC had a number of discussions with several potentially liable parties regarding a Remedial Design / Remedial Action Consent Order.

DEC met with Frontier, in June and October of 2007, to discuss the implementation of ROD. As a result, Frontier had submitted a Supplemental Soil Characterization and Pilot Test Work Plan in November 2007. The supplemental activities, additional soils delineation, soil treatability study, and deeper bedrock groundwater Remedial Investigation/Feasibility Study (RI/FS), were necessary prior to any site remedy. It did not include any remedial work which was described in the DEC's March 2006 Record of Decision.

The Work Plan was approved on December 14, 2007. In August 2008 a Consent Order for the Supplemental work, including an additional contaminated soils delineation for OU#1 and RI/FS for OU#2, was executed by DEC with the PRP group. The approved work plan for those activities was attached to the Consent Order.  The field work began in September 2008 and is expected to be completed by the summer of 2009. After reporting for that work is received, which is projected for the fall 2009, the DEC will issue a Record of Decision for OU#2. The ROD is expected to be issued in the spring 2010.

Consent Order for Supplemental Soil Characterization and Pilot Test Work Plan

This Work Plan incorporates the investigation required in the ROD for the OU1, and in addition, the investigation of the deeper bedrock groundwater for the OU2. The Work Plan was approved on December 14, 2007 and the final Consent Order for the Supplemental work was executed with the Frontier PRP group in August 2008.

Pursuant to the ROD, further soil characterization is to be performed in order to further delineate the vertical and horizontal extent of "source area" soils that are to be removed and disposed off-site. The NYSDEC has identified areas where additional information is needed to be collected and assessed prior to finalization of the remedial components for the site.

In accordance with the ROD, the cleanup level for such soils is 100 ppm of the sum of total VOCs and Monochlorotoluene (MCT). Since issuance of the ROD, the soil cleanup criteria provided in 6 NYCRR Part 375-6 were updated effective December 14, 2006. Based on the updated criterion, the cleanup level is either:

This Work Plan intends to provide delineation of the "source area" soils to the current criteria which supersede the criteria used in developing the ROD. 

Review of the cleanup criteria in 6 NYCRR Part 375-6 shows that no criteria have been developed for MCT. Thus, one component of the pre-design evaluation is to develop MCT criteria for the protection of human health in an industrial setting. This evaluation will be provided along with the results of the investigation. The impact of MCT on the cleanup criteria will also be provided in the supplemental characterization report.

A comparison of the available soil data to the 1,000 ppm criteria has been made. The results of this comparison show that there are six soil sample locations which exceed the 1,000 ppm concentration. Review of the individual organic compound analytical results shows that all of the compounds which exceed their individual criteria are also found at these six locations.
 
Based upon this data review, the refinement of the delineation of the >1,000 ppm source area will focus in the area defined by the six previously identified exceedance locations. It is planned that a grid consisting of 19 sampling stations be installed in this area. Should the analytical results of one or more of the source area perimeter sampling stations exceed 1,000 ppm, additional sampling will be done in the area of such stations by simply extending the grid in a stepwise manner (as necessary) beyond the initial 19 stations. Data from the initial stations will be used to plan any grid extension sampling that is required.

Location of Deeper Bedrock Monitoring Wells

Pursuant to the Record Of Decision, additional investigations need to be performed to characterize the C-Zone and deeper bedrock groundwater. The Supplemental RI noted that only two wells monitoring the C-Zone (MW-88-4C and MW-88-5C) are currently operational and there are no on-site wells for the deeper bedrock zones. Because the primary purpose for these wells is to determine the potential off-Site migration of chemicals via the deeper bedrock groundwater, and a well already exists along the north site boundary (i.e., MW-88-4C) and in the "source" area (i.e., MW-88-5C), three supplemental locations have been selected for C-Zone and deeper bedrock groundwater monitoring wells. These wells are located adjacent to the east, south, and west site boundaries.

In the event that NAPL is encountered during the drilling of the bedrock at any one of these wells, that well location will be grouted to the surface and an alternate well location will be selected, in conjunction with the NYSDEC. In the event that NAPL is encountered while attempting to install the well along the southern property boundary, it may be necessary to relocate the well to the south side of Royal Avenue.

During performance of the Off-Site Investigation (OSI) Program by Occidental Chemical Corporation for its Buffalo Avenue Plant site, five bedrock wells (i.e., OW654D, C, and E; OW655D; and OW656D) were installed at three locations in close proximity to the Frontier Chemical Site. These wells were installed at various depths in the bedrock. The designation of the depths of the bedrock zones for the OSI program differ from the designations used at the Frontier Chemical Site. A comparison shows:

Occidental Off-Site Investigation
Frontier Chemical
Depth below top of rock Zone designation Depth below top of rock Zone designation
0' - 45' D-Zone 0' - 5' A-Zone
45' - 70' C-Zone 11' -17' B-Zone
74' - 110' B-Zone 31' - 37' C-Zone
    Unknown D-Zone

As can be seen from this comparison, the Occidental Off-Site Investigation (OSI) D-Zone wells monitor all three of the Frontier Chemical Site A, B, and C-Zone wells and therefore the OSI wells cannot be used to differentiate the hydraulic or chemical characteristics of the Frontier Chemical Site's A, B, and C-Zones.

However, the Occidental OSI C-Zone and B-Zone wells can be used to provide guidance as to how deep the additional Frontier Chemical Site deeper bedrock wells need to be installed. Review of the OSI chemical results provided in Appendix A show that the OSI C-Zone chemical concentrations are mostly non-detect with only four organic compounds detected at concentrations ranging from 1 µg/L (1,4-dichlorobenzene) to 2,200 µg/L (TCE) in the March 1992 sample.

Concentrations in the underlying OSI B-Zone are even lower with a maximum concentration of 95µg/L for benzene in the February 1992 sample. The TCE concentration in the B-Zone was 1 µg/L, showing the significant reduction in chemical concentrations between the OSI C and B-Zone wells.  Based on the following factors, it is apparent that installation of deeper wells at the  Frontier Chemical Site need go no deeper than the OSI C-Zone (which is at elevation 475 ft ± amsl):

Once the data from the three additional deeper bedrock wells are available, a determination will be made in conjunction with the NYSDEC as to whether a significant threat exists at depth that would necessitate further characterization at depth.

The determination will consider the concentrations, gradients, potential receptors, natural attenuative capacity of the formation, industrial zoning, sewer infrastructure, and proposed on-site soil remedial action in the evaluation.
 
The proposed locations are along the south, west, and east site boundaries.
The reasons for these selected locations are:

Also, DEC issued a large number of Proposal Remedial Plan Notices requesting Information and Production of Records, based on Article 27, Title 13. As a result of this action, a large number on PRPs has formed the Frontier “PRP Group” to negotiate with DEC the implementation of the ROD and an additional investigation of the site. The Group has determined that out of around 5,000 entities that arranged for storage and treatment of hazardous waste on site, 1,765 of them did not shipped more then 750 gallons to the site. Starting in January 2008 the PRP Group has been offering a Settlement Agreement and Liability Release offer to these “deminimus parties”. Group’s offer of settlement with the “deminimus parties” did not involve NYSDEC. NYSDEC is not a party to that offer, nor a party to any offers for liability releases.

Migration of Contaminated Groundwater Under Control
This Environmental Indicator Status cannot be achieved until a decision is made regarding the extent of deep groundwater contamination, and the need for a remedial system to capture contamination in the deep bedrock groundwater.
The final Order for the Supplemental deep bedrock groundwater investigation work is being discussed with the Frontier PRP group at this time. It will take approximately 1-2 years to complete the investigation and remedial design.

Site Repository

Copies of supporting technical documents and correspondence cited in this fact sheet are available for public review at:

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
Division of Solid and Hazardous Materials
Bureau of Radiation and Hazardous Waste Management
625 Broadway
Albany, NY 12233-7252

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) makes its public records available for a review under the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL).

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