Enterprise Avenue Case Study
Note: EPA no longer updates this information, but it may be useful as a reference or resource.
Last Updated February 2000
Industrial and chemical waste illegally buried at the city landfill
A new 5,000 foot commuter runway at Philadelphia International Airport
Key component of a $1 billion airport expansion that reduces airport delays and improves operations and flight safety
On December 3, 1999, a new 5,000 foot commercial runway began operations at the Philadelphia International Airport (PHL). A significant portion of this runway, which will improve airport capacity, efficiency, and flight safety, sits on the former Enterprise Avenue Superfund site. The cleanup and redevelopment of this site has helped spark a major expansion of the airport terminals and retail space, and is expected to reduce delays in takeoffs and landings. As a result of these improvements, a major airline has expanded its hub at the airport. The cleanup of this site is also helping to protect the quality of the water supply for thousands of residents of southern New Jersey. What follows is the story of how EPA worked with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP), and the City of Philadelphia to return this area to productive use, and of the positive economic impacts and environmental and social benefits that resulted.
The Enterprise Avenue site is located on city property in an industrial area off Interstate 95 near the eastern end of the Philadelphia International Airport. It lies within the 100 year flood plain of the Delaware River. All surface drainage for the site ultimately flows to the river. Beneath the site lies a natural bed of clay over the New Jersey Coastal Plain Sole Source Aquifer that provides water for about one-half of the population of southern New Jersey.
Until mid-1976, the Philadelphia Streets Department used 40 acres of the 57-acre site for disposal of incineration residue, fly ash, and construction and demolition debris. Several waste disposal firms illegally dumped drums containing industrial and chemical waste at the site. In response to reports of unauthorized dumping, the Philadelphia Water Department conducted exploratory excavations that uncovered broken and fragmented 55-gallon drums containing paint sludges, solvents, oils, resins, metal finishing wastes, and solid inorganic wastes. It was estimated that approximately 11,600 drums were buried at the site.
From Toxic Landfill...
The city began to clean up the site in 1982. It removed and disposed of all drums and drum fragments as well as 21,350 tons of contaminated soil. The balance of the 39,150 contaminated tons of soil was stockpiled and a cover was installed over part of it. In 1984, the EPA placed the site on its list of hazardous waste sites needing cleanup. The cleanup plan called for removing the balance of the contaminated soil and placing a protective cap over the landfill. Following this cleanup, the city agreed to maintain the cap and monitor groundwater. By 1986 the site was deleted from EPA's list and the city planned to allow the site to be used as a truck terminal. The cost for this cleanup was approximately $13 million of which the city was able to recover approximately $10 million from firms that had manufactured or dumped waste at the site.
...To Takeoffs and Landings
In the early 1990s the airport authority determined that this site, which is at the eastern edge of the airport, was a desirable location for a much needed commuter runway. The FAA signed off on the project, provided that the city comply with conditions specified by EPA to install a state-of-the-art protective cap over the entire landfill and assume responsibility for the management and monitoring of groundwater. The $221 million 5,000 ft commuter runway was completed in December 1999. About $50 million of this total is attributable to the design, engineering, installation and continued operation of the protective cap and monitoring system as well as other environmental improvements. Because the new runway will substantially increase the airport's capacity to manage aircraft, it is an essential component of the $1 billion airport expansion, which also includes two new passenger terminals and a shopping mall.
Completion of the runway on this former Superfund site is expected to result in significant improvement to the transportation infrastructure of one of the largest metropolitan areas in the U.S. and provide the entire Delaware Valley region with increased jobs and revenues. The runway will increase the capacity for passenger and freight flights, reduce airport delays, and ensure safer and more efficient flight operations by better separating types of aircraft during takeoffs and landings. It will also complement the new terminals and enhance PHL's ability to handle international flights. The environmental cleanup and continued groundwater monitoring will help ensure the safety of the water supply for more than one half of the population of southern New Jersey. These benefits are expected to enhance the image of the city and its airport, and lead to additional commercial development in the region.
Keys to Success
The partnership among the EPA, FAA, PADEP, and the City of Philadelphia in the cleanup and post-cleanup monitoring was critical to the success of this project. It allowed the partners to consider the engineering requirements for the site's reuse as a runway in conjunction with cleanup plans. As a result, they were able to overcome complex engineering and environmental challenges, including the development of a comprehensive groundwater monitoring program, the construction of a protective cap compatible with runway use, and the relocation/mitigation of 22 acres of wetlands. This project has allowed for significant commercial growth and improved flight safety, which are expected to benefit the entire region well into the future while maintaining the environmental integrity and safety of the area.
For more information about the cleanup and redevelopment of the Enterprise Avenue site, contact:
U.S. EPA- Region 3
1650 Arch Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103-2029