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Exxon to Clean Up Coke Works Using Innovative Agreement

Release Date: 5/24/1999
Contact Information: Ruth Podems, (215) 814-5113

PHILADELPHIA - The Exxon Company will sign an agreement today with federal and state environmental regulators and community leaders to clean up the Sharon Steel Fairmont Coke Works Superfund Site in Fairmont, W.Va., using an innovative approach developed by Exxon.

The Exxon agreement, one of 12 pilots of its kind in the country, comes under the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Project XL Program, which stands for eXcellence and Leadership. The program encourages companies to test cleaner, cheaper and smarter ways to achieve environmental results that are superior to those achieved under current regulations.

"XL Projects provide regulatory flexibility for industry, while benefitting the community with overall reductions in pollution levels that are greater than the law requires," said W. Michael McCabe, EPA Regional Administrator. "It’s a win-win situation."

The agreement will be signed today at 2 p.m. at the Exxon facility at Lafayette Street and Morgantown Avenue in Fairmont. Representatives of the EPA and the West Virginia Division of Environmental Protection will sign the agreement, which proposes changes to the traditional Superfund cleanup process with the goal of redeveloping the property as quickly as possible.

Some of the unique aspects of the agreement include Exxon’s commitment to:

1) Demolish and dispose of the buildings on site to add aesthetic value to the community and to facilitate redevelopment.

2) Identify interested developers up-front and make the site readily available to them.

3) Involve local government to provide future land use planning for redevelopment.

4) Involve citizens throughout the cleanup process via the Fairmont Community Liaison Panel, which goes beyond what is required by Superfund law.

The Sharon Steel Fairmont Coke Works site occupies approximately 50 acres, 20 miles south of Morgantown, along the I-79 industrial corridor in Fairmont. A corporate predecessor of Exxon owned the site from 1918 to 1948 and then sold it to Sharon Steel Corporation which operated a coke production facility until operations ceased in 1979, as a result of Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act violations. Sharon Steel filed for protection under federal bankruptcy laws in 1987.

The EPA began evaluating the site for placement on the Superfund National Priorities List of the most hazardous sites in 1987. The EPA removed all immediate hazardous waste threats from the site from 1993 through 1996. Because of Sharon Steel’s bankruptcy status, Exxon, as prior owner, was the only party to sign a Superfund cleanup agreement in September 1997 to begin assessing the remaining contamination at the site.

In addition to the Exxon agreement, another 11 pilot XL projects are now underway across the country, and another 35 are being developed.

      West Virginia is home to a pilot site near Sistersville, where Witco Corp., a chemical manufacturer, is reducing air emissions from its plant through a combination of flexible air pollution controls and waste reduction efforts.
      Weyerhauser’s Flint River Pulp manufacturing facility in Oglethorpe, Georgia is minimizing the environmental impact of its fluff pulp (used in diapers) production through a number of innovative pollution-cutting measures.
      The HADCO Corp., a wiring board company, is testing an XL pilot at three of its plants in Owego, N.Y., Derry and Hudson, N.H. where they are overcoming barriers to the recovery of metals associated with sludge waste.
      Merck & Co. of Elkton, Virginia has permitting flexibility and a lifetime cap on certain air pollutants, locking in emissions below the current levels. These caps will protect visibility and prevent acid rain in nearby Shenandoah National Park.