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Congressional District # 14


EPA ID# OHD980614572
Last Updated: December, 2011

Site Description

The Fields Brook site, located approximately 55 miles east of Cleveland, is in the city and county of Ashtabula, Ohio.  It is a six square-mile watershed of a Brook where, from 1940 to the present, up to 19 separate facilities operated.  Activities range from metals-fabrication to chemicals production.  Fields Brook flows into the Ashtabula River, which flows into Lake Erie approximately 1-1/2 miles downstream of the site.  Sediments within Fields Brook, and soils on the Fields Brook floodplain/wetlands area, were contaminated with a wide variety of contaminants including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), chlorinated solvents and metals. Six industrial properties surrounding Fields Brook were potentially recontaminating the sediment within Fields Brook, which has then subsequently contaminated the sediments of the Ashtabula River.  Approximately 23,000 people live within one mile of the site, in the city of Ashtabula.

Upper reaches of Fields Brook flow through areas which are currently heavily industrialized. Future use in these areas is also expected to be industrial. Although access to the brook through these areas is not completely restricted, public use generally is not found due to the industrial nature of the area and the availability of other nearby recreational areas. Lower reaches of the brook flow between residential neighborhoods prior to discharge to the Ashtabula River adjacent to a rail yard. The currently-residential neighborhoods are expected to remain residential use in the future and the rail yard is expected to remain in industrial use.   A State of Ohio Sport Fish Consumption Advisory has been in place for the section of the Ashtabula River which includes the discharge point for Fields Brook since 1983. In 1998 and again in 2004, the advisory was revised to address updated information for PCBs and mercury for a variety of species.  

Site Responsibility

This site is being addressed through potentially responsible party (PRP) actions.

Threats and Contaminants

Sediments and surrounding floodplain soils removed from Fields Brook were contaminated with PCBs, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), heavy metals, phthalates and low-level radionuclides. VOCs and heavy metals including mercury, lead, zinc, and cadmium were detected in surface water from Fields Brook and a tributary.  Contaminated sediments threatened drinking water intakes in Lake Erie.  Contaminants detected in fish included VOCs and PCBs.  The site posed a potential health risk to individuals who would accidentally ingest or come into direct contact with contaminated soils, sediments, and surface water from Fields Brook.  Ingesting contaminated fish also may cause adverse health effects.

Cleanup Progress

In 1986, a final cleanup decision for the Fields Brook sediment Operable Unit was reached between the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the state.  In 1989, EPA issued a Unilateral Administrative Order to require the potentially responsible parties (PRPs) to design and implement the 1986 Record of Decision (ROD) for the Fields Brook sediment.  Recognizing that contaminated sediment was only part of the problem, EPA required the PRPs to also investigate the adjacent floodplain/wetland area and conduct a search for the source(s) of site contamination. 

The investigation of the floodplain/wetland areas along Fields Brook found that contamination, especially PCBs, did extend into the soils adjacent to the Brook.  EPA issued a ROD on June 30, 1997, to select the remedy for the floodplain/wetlands Operable Unit (OU).  The remedy required the excavation and disposal of PCB-contaminated soil in both industrial and residential portions of the OU.  In addition, soils with low-level PCB contamination near residential areas were to be covered to reduce erosion into the Brook.  An onsite landfill was to be built within the industrial area of the Fields Brook watershed to house PCB-contaminated soils and sediment from site.

In August, 1997, EPA issued an Explanation of Significant Differences (ESD) which modified the original 1986 sediment OU ROD.  The ESD eliminated the need for onsite thermal treatment by allowing off-site treatment of contaminated sediment.  The ESD also decreased the volume of sediment requiring excavation and eliminated the solidification requirement for sediments to be landfilled.

On September 30, 1997, EPA issued a ROD to select remedies for six source areas that could potentially recontaminate the Brook.  In general, remedies require excavation and containment.  The remedies in these areas were designed to protect Fields Brook from recontamination .  Institutional controls were included in the remedies to the extent that they were necessary for protection of Fields Brook.  The industrial source area facilities are subject to other environmental regulations such as the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) Corrective Action provisions that may require additional cleanup or institutional controls in the future for areas not related to the brook. 

In 1998, low-level radionuclides were discovered in the soil and mining residuals at the Millennium Inorganic Chemicals TiCl4 facility (one of the industrial source areas addressed by the September 1997 source control ROD) and in Fields Brook sediment and floodplain/wetland soils. The discovery of the low-level radionuclides (primarily radium-226 and radium-228) complicated the cleanup designs that were then underway. On April 8, 1999, EPA issued a Site-Wide ESD which modified all existing RODs for the site, established radionuclide cleanup levels, and outlined the design modifications necessitated by the presence of the radionuclides. In August 2001, EPA issued another ESD to address the discovery of Dense Non-Aqueous Phase Liquid (DNAPL) below the brook sediments and floodplain soils. The DNAPL was found in Exposure Units 6 and 8, and indications are that it originally came from the historical Detrex discharge location. The ESD reverses a previous change in treatment location and allowed onsite thermal treatment of impacted soils and sediments.  

Cleanup work at the Fields Brook operable units was completed according to the following schedule:

Fields Brook Sediment and Floodplain/Wetland Soils - Construction of an on-site landfill was completed in the summer of 2000.  Excavation of Fields Brook soil and floodplain/wetland sediment, and low-level radioactive and DNAPL-contaminated soil and sediment was completed in December 2002.  Thermal treatment was performed onsite for soils and sediment impacted by dense non-aqueous phase liquids (DNAPL), but not regulated under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).  Restoration activities were completed in Spring 2003.  Institutional controls are in place.

Millennium Inorganic Chemicals TiCl4 Facility - Excavation of approximately 60,000 cubic yards of PCB- and radium-contaminated soil and mining residuals was completed in the fall of 1999.  Excavated material was disposed of in a 2nd landfill -- the existing Millennium on-site landfill.  Institutional controls are in place. 

RMI Metals – Excavation and disposal of PCB-contaminated soils to industrial use standards was completed in the summer of 2001.  The Record of Decision also included a contingent remedy for on-site containment of soils, but soils were instead removed from the property.  No institutional controls were required because no material was left on-site which had the potential to cause an exceedance of Fields Brook cleanup levels.

Acme Scrap Iron and Metals / South Sewers - The excavation and disposal of PCB-contaminated soil and the cleaning of the south sewers was completed in the Fall of 2000.  Institutional controls are in place.  

Detrex Chemicals - Construction of a slurry wall was completed in 2000.  Construction of DNAPL extraction system began in 2001.  Additional wells have been added since that time.  To date, approximately 16,000 gallons of DNAPL have been removed from the property.  Work is on-going at the facility to increase effectiveness of the DNAPL removal system.  Institutional controls are in place. 

In the fall of 2009, the Detrex facility conducted additional investigation of a tributary to Fields Brook, removed additional contaminated soils, and installed monitoring trenches to ensure continued protectiveness. In 2011, additional sediment contamination was observed, and was removed in October 2011. The excavated channel was lined with impermeable stone and bentonite grout. A newly-discovered former storm line draining into the tributary was also permanently sealed.

EPA has drafted an ESD to the Detrex portion of the Fields Brook Source Control ROD which would enhance the DNAPL recovery and containment system. These additional measures are expected to be implemented in 2012.

North Sewers - The grouting and replacement of the PCB-contaminated North Sewers was completed in Fall of 2000. Institutional controls are in place.

Conrail - Physical construction at the Conrail source control OU was completed in December of 1998.  Although the Record of Decision allowed on-site containment of arsenic-contaminated soil, which would have required an institutional control to manage for the long term, in the final approved remedial action all arsenic-contaminated soil was excavated to residential cleanup standards and shipped for disposal off-site. Therefore, no institutional controls were required.

Ashtabula River - Fields Brook flows into the Ashtabula River.  Contaminated sediments in the Ashtabula River have been addressed under the Great Lakes Legacy Act program.

Operations Maintence and Monitoring - The Fields Brook PRPs are conducting O&M monitoring at the Fields Brook landfill and in the brook. 

In 2005, O&M monitoring in the brook identified additional pockets of DNAPL contamination in select areas.  To ensure that there is no pathway from the Detrex DNAPL source area, Detrex installed an interceptor trench to cut off a potential subsurface pathway between the DNAPL source area and Fields Brook.  

The Fields Brook PRPs mobilized to the site in late August 2007 to remove areas of PCB and DNAPL contamination found in the brook and floodplain.  PRPs removed DNAPL-contaminated soils from below the old North Sewer outfall and installed a sump to capture any DNAPL that could not be accessed because of the bridge structures.  No continuing source of DNAPL to this area has been found. 

During the excavation of PCB-contamianted soil and sediment in 2008, a PCB-containing oil was found at the base of several excavations adjacent to the Millennium TiCl4 facility.  EPA brought in its Emergency Response staff to coordinate a rapid response to the identified problem.  Millennium cooperated with EPA and implemented immediate response measures.  Millennium has installed interceptor trenches to cut off any subsurface flow of Therminol DNAPL from the Millennium property and excavated additional PCB-contaminated soil and sediment from the brook and floodplain area.  The material was shipped off site for disposal.  

In the summer of 2009, the Fields Brook Action Group (PRP group) implemented a permanent solutuion for the part of the brook where contamination may remain at depth.  The brook in this section was rerouted into a clean zone with an engineered DNAPL collection system constructed beneath as a safety measure. 

Community Involvement

Public information about the Fields Brook site is updated frequently on EPA's web page for the Fields Brook site at http://www.epa.gov/region5/sites/fieldsbrook/index.htm.   Most recent postings include the June 2009 Five Year Review of the site and a September 2009 remedy modification in the form of an Explanation of Significant Difference.  Another ESD for the Detrex Facility is expected to be available for inspection in December 2011.  In addition, the two local repositories of additional information about the Fields Brook site at the Ashtabula County District Library and the Kent State Campus Library in Ashtabula were recently updated by converting the records to CD. 


Remedial Project Manager, U.S. EPA
owen thompson (thompson.owen@epa.gov)
(312) 886-4843

Community Involvement Coordinator, U.S. EPA
susan pastor
(312) 353-1325

Site Profile Information

This profile provides you with information on EPA's cleanup progress at this Superfund site.


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