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Hazardous Waste Cleanup: Global Advanced Metals in Boyertown, Pennsylvania

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Cleanup Status

The final remedy for the facility is complete and consists of a combination of engineering and institutional controls, which are described in more detail below and in the Statement of Basis. The Final Decision to implement the final remedy for the facility became effective on October 2, 2017.

After entering Pennsylvania’s Act 2 program in September 2014, the facility submitted a Remedial Investigation and Cleanup Plan in April 2016, and a Final Report in August 2016, that outlined the bioremediation activities that had occurred to clean up groundwater beneath the facility, surface water modeling and sampling to demonstrate no impact to West Swamp Creek above Ambient Water Quality Criteria, and a vapor intrusion assessment of two occupied buildings near maximum groundwater contaminant concentrations that demonstrated no unacceptable vapor risk to workers. Additional quarterly groundwater sampling in 2017 demonstrated that concentrations of TCE degradation products in groundwater beneath the southeastern portion of the Main Plant Area are decreasing or statistically insignificant, suggesting that remaining groundwater contamination is stable or decreasing and will not migrate off-site.

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Site Description

Interactive map of Global Advanced Metals, Boyertown PA

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The facility began operations in 1950.  The facility manufactures tantalum (Ta) and niobium (Nb) metals through the processing of raw ore.  The final products are metal powder, wire, or sheet products used in the electronics and medical fields.

Environmental investigations near the facility began in the late 1970s and continued into the early 1990s due to concerns of potential contamination (particularly fluoride) of vegetation and livestock of farms in the surrounding area. More detailed investigations of soil and groundwater at the facility occurred from 1999 to 2000 as part of EPA’s Removal Assessment, which concluded that soil analytical data did not indicate that soil affected by industrial contaminants rose to a level of concern for human health or the environment, and that groundwater was impacted by both specific natural conditions and the facility, but that groundwater at residential locations were not obviously affected by facility contaminants.

Natural attenuation and degradation processes continue to slowly reduce contaminant concentrations in groundwater beneath the facility. In 2008, a pilot-scale bioremediation study undertaken by the facility suggested that enhancement of these natural attenuation processes via bioremediation would speed up remediation of groundwater beneath the facility. Based on the success of the pilot study, further rounds of bioremediation injections into areas of contaminated groundwater beneath the southeastern portion of the Main Plant Area were conducted in 2010, 2012, and 2014.

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Contaminants at this Facility

In addition to being impacted by the facility, groundwater in the area is impacted by natural conditions and agricultural activities.  The main contaminants in the groundwater at the southern portion of the site are fluoride and TCE and its degradation products.

Residential locations are not affected by contaminants from the facility; the potential concern for human health in the residential wells is due to natural sources.  The majority (about 70%) of residential drinking water wells exhibit an increased boron concentration.  A number of these wells contain concentrations of other metals above levels of potential concern for human health due to natural sources.

Several Streams - Swamp Creek, Middle Creek and the tributaries in the area of the facility - were sampled by EPA in 1999-2000.  An Aquatic Biology Investigation of Swamp Creek indicated good overall stream quality.  Furthermore, groundwater beneath the facility was found to have no measurable impact on Swamp Creek surface water quality.  Sediment sampling from Swamp Creek showed that the controlled discharge from the facility does not pose a threat to the aquatic environment.

Soil in the southern part of the facility is contaminated with niobium, tantalum, lead, selenium and zinc.  A few soil samples registered elevated levels of uranium, manganese, aluminum, magnesium, cobalt, barium and copper.  In the EPA Region III November 2000 Removal Assessment Report, EPA concluded that no soil cleanup is necessary to protect human health.

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Institutional and Engineering Controls at this Facility

The final remedy for the facility includes institutional controls to ensure that groundwater is not used for potable or domestic purposes at the facility and that facility property remains non-residential. A Post-Remediation Care Plan is also required to ensure the long-term integrity of physical barriers between impacted soil and groundwater beneath the southeastern portion of the Main Plant Area, as well as outline work procedures and personal protective equipment requirements for any intrusive operations conducted within this area.

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Land Reuse Information at this Facility

Global Advanced Metals continues to use the facility to process rare metals.

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Site Responsibility at this Facility

Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) Corrective Action activities at this facility have been conducted under the direction of EPA Region 3 with assistance from Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

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