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EPA and DNREC Okay $3.9 Million To Stabilize Metachem

Release Date: 5/17/2002
Contact Information: (EPA) David Sternberg, (215) 814-5548 & (DNREC) John Blevins, (302)739-4764

(EPA) David Sternberg, (215) 814-5548 & (DNREC) John Blevins, (302)739-4764

DELAWARE CITY, Del. - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control are taking immediate action to eliminate any hazard to public health or the environment from the former Metachem chemical plant.

The agencies announced today that they have jointly made $3.9 million available under the federal Superfund and Delaware Hazardous Substance Cleanup Act to secure the site and prevent any immediate environmental or health risk.

Metachem Products, LLC, which has declared bankruptcy, will shut down the last of its operations today, and turn over control of the plant, located just north of Delaware City, Delaware, to the two government agencies.

The government funds are immediately available to stabilize and characterize chemicals at the plant. This process is necessary before a long-term cleanup plan can be developed.

EPA and DNREC will sponsor a public meeting in early June to inform residents of ongoing activities and answer questions.

In taking control of the chemical plant, the government agencies face a number of immediate tasks to stabilize the site, including:

• Providing 24-hour security at the site.
• Maintaining the fire suppression system.
• Removing any chlorine and other chemical product from process lines.
• Safely securing and monitoring all rail cars.
• Categorizing, segregating, and staging all drums and containers safely at the site.
• Maintaining and operating the plant’s wastewater treatment system.
• Decontaminating trenches, drains and sumps at the plant.
• Removing benzene from tanks on site.
• Taking any additional steps needed to prevent a release of pollutants from the site.

Manufacturing of chlorinated benzene chemicals began at the plant in 1966 when it was owned and operated by Standard Chlorine of Delaware, Inc. The facility
includes more than 100 tanks and process vessels, thousands of feet of piping, drum storage areas, a warehouse, a dichlorobenzene flaking and packaging unit, railroad sidings and tank car unloading areas, a wastewater treatment plant, and numerous other structures. The site also has, contaminated soil piles, and an impoundment containing contaminated sediment from tank failures that occurred in the 1980s.

The site near Delaware City is surrounded by other chemical production and processing facilities. Red Lion Creek and its tributaries, which drain to the Delaware River, are located 1000 feet northwest of the site.

The Metachem plant produced a variety of chlorinated benzene compounds which were used to make mothballs and urinal disinfectants. These compounds resulted from chemical processing and distillation of chlorine and benzene. Chlorine was piped from an adjacent chemical production facility, and benzene was trucked in and stored on site.

Within the past two weeks, the company notified the government that it would declare bankruptcy and cease operations, abandoning the plant and millions of pounds of chemicals stored there.
Hazardous substances at the site include liquid benzene, millions of pounds of chlorinated benzene materials, thousands of pounds of caustic solutions and hydrochloric acid in storage tanks and process vessels.

Additional quantities of hazardous substances are located in railcars, drums, and other storage containers. These include benzene, chlorine, monochlorobenzene, various
dichlorobenzene isomers, 1,2,4- trichlorobenzene, 1,2,4,5-tetrachlorobenzene, hydrochloric acid, PCBs, and caustic solutions.

Part of the site currently is on the Superfund National Priorities List as a result of major spills of chlorinated benzene products in the 1980s, which contaminated groundwater, soils, and sediments.

EPA, with input from DNREC, will design a remedy to decontaminate soil and groundwater now that Metachem has declared itself financially unable to do so.