The Westline Site, subject to previous EPA removal and remedial actions, is a former chemical plant located in the rural community of Westline, Lafayette Township, McKean County, Pennsylvania. The Westline Site is situated along Kinzua Creek and is completely surrounded by the Allegheny National Forest. From 1901 to 1952, the Day Chemical Company facility was operated to convert lumber to charcoal, methanol, and acetic acid. A tar-like waste (wood tar) was generated by the chemical process and deposited onto the ground, eventually forming several lagoons. The Day Chemical Company deposited wood tar material containing phenolic compounds and PAHs into onsite lagoons and into small canals to allow the material to migrate downhill towards the banks of Kinzua Creek. In 1952, a fire and explosion caused the facility to close. When Day Chemical Company abandoned the facility, the foundation, demolition debris, and wood tar was left behind. This wood tar was disposed of, or flowed into, natural or excavated depressions located hundreds of feet away from the facility throughout the town.
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The site was discovered in July of 1982 during a routine inspection of oil operations in the Allegheny National Forest.
Analysis of the wood tar showed that phenol and 2,4-dimethylphenol were present at approximately 1,000 mg/k each. Both of these compounds, listed as CERCLA hazardous substances, present in the wood tar deposits posed a threat to people who come in direct contact with, inhale, or ingest wood tar or wood tar contaminated materials. The dominant and most widely distributed contaminants detected in the soils were polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). PAHs were suspected to be the result of particulate transport of contaminants from the smokestacks of the former chemical plant. It should be noted that some PAHs are listed individually on EPA’s Consolidated List of Chemicals. In addition to the direct contact threat to public health, the town is located in a 100-year flood plain, therefore, areas containing wood tar could be subject to erosion if a flood occurs, possibly causing contaminants to enter Kinzua Creek, a tributary to the Allegheny Reservoir.
The Westline Site was proposed for listing on the National Priorities List (NPL) by the EPA remedial program on December 30, 1982.
On August 29, 1983, EPA commenced with an immediate removal action to remove two thousand (2,000) tons of wood tar and contaminated soil from the largest lagoon of wood tar deposits.
The Westline Site was added to the NPL on September 8, 1983. Through a 1986 Record of Decision (ROD), EPA conducted a remedial action and addressed the remediation of an additional two thousand three hundred forty (2,340) tons of wood tar and contaminated soil found in an onsite wood tar pit and in some of the interspersed wood tar deposits along Kinzua Creek.
In 1990, although there was still an estimated four thousand (4,000) tons of wood tar and contaminated soil left at the Westline Site in the areas planned for remediation, most of the remaining wood tar was approximately three (3) feet below the surface in areas overgrown with trees and ferns, and was no longer considered a dermal contact threat. The possibility of direct contact with the wood tar at the surface was considered to be limited to one square foot puddles and the dermal exposures were considered to be limited to the hands, arms, neck and face rather than the entire body. Based on an updated risk assessment, using more recent risk criteria for PAHs, EPA determined that the residual contaminated soil and wood tar material remaining onsite presented no potential carcinogenic risk greater than the range of acceptable risks found at other Superfund sites, and thus the excavation and offsite incineration and disposal of waste from an onsite wood tar pit and the interspersed wood tar deposits along Kinzua Creek was discontinued as the Westline Site had been cleaned up to levels that did not pose a threat to public health or the environment. The selected remedial action for the 1990 ROD amendment was “no further action”. Because some wood tar material remained onsite, EPA planned to monitor the site to prevent unacceptable exposure from the wood tar from recurring, and a five-year review would be scheduled. The EPA deleted the Westline Site from the National Priorities List of the nation's most hazardous waste sites in 1992.
Fast forward to 2014. In the Spring of 2014, wood tar was observed to be seeping to the surface at a seasonal residential property, approximately one acre in size, located in Westline, Lafayette Township, McKean County, Pennsylvania. On July 15, 2014, after obtaining some information about the previous EPA removal and remedial activities conducted at the Westline Site, and upon learning that EPA On-Scene Coordinator (OSC) Zenone was familiar with the Westline Site and the wood tar deposits remaining in the area, the landowner contacted and notified OSC Zenone of the current situation. Upon notification, OSC Zenone coordinated and exchanged information with the EPA Remedial Project Manager (RPM), the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) and the McKean County Conservation District (MCCD) regarding the current conditions at the Westline Site.
On July 17, OSC Zenone, with the landowner’s consent, met on-site with representatives from the PADEP Environmental Cleanup & Brownfields Program (ECBP) and the MCCD to observe conditions, gather and exchange information. Several wood tar seeps were observed in a wetland area located on the property. The wood tar was also observed along the right-descending shoreline of Kinzua Creek immediately south of the wood tar seeps observed in the wetland. The wood tar seeps appear to be located in the Westline Site, specifically in Area B described as containing interspersed tar deposits in the Feasibility Study (FS) Report prepared for EPA’s Remedial Program in 1986. Observations of the current conditions by the OSC, PADEP-ECBP and MCCD indicated that there had been some change(s) in conditions since EPA completed its on-site remedial activities and delisted the Westline Site. It was apparent that an assessment was necessary to gather information to determine if the change(s) in conditions at the Westline Site posed a threat to public health or the environment which would require removal or remedial action under federal or State jurisdictional authorities. OSC Zenone would follow-up with RPM Schrock and EPA Regional Management (Removal and Remedial programs); PADEP-EC&BP would follow-up with PADEP’s Hazardous Sites Cleanup Act (HSCA) Section; and MCCD would also follow-up to determine if resources were available under each agency’s respective authorities to further assess the potential threats posed by the current conditions, and formulate a plan of action to remove or remediate, as may be applicable.
In October 2014, EPA commenced an on-site Removal Investigation/Assessment to determine the potential threats to public health and the environment posed by the current conditions at the Westline Site.
Subsequent to the sampling event conducted by the START contractor in October 2014, the OSC has continued coordinating and exchanging information with MCCD, PADEP-ECBP, PADEP-HSCA, PADEP-W&W, PAFBC, PADOT, EPAR3-BTAG, USFWS, landowner(s) and local utilities. Topics of discussion included, but not necessarily limited to the following: access to private property; access to public property; removal options to address the wood tar observed seeping from the wetland area on either side of the driveway; removal options to address the presumed wetland area and wood tar beneath the driveway; removal options to address wood tar exposed along the right-descending shoreline of Kinzua Creek; removal options to stabilize right-descending shoreline to prevent erosion exposing additional quantities of wood tar; technical advice, guidance and removal options to conduct work within the stream channel of Kinzua Creek; technical advice, guidance regarding shoreline stabilization as a removal option to stabilize the shoreline and mitigate future exposure of wood tar; facilitating permitting process for the dismantlement and/or relocation of gas lines crossing Kinzua Creek to facilitate access to the creek necessary to conduct removal activities; coordination of efforts with PADOT to prevent potential adverse effects that removal activities might have on the Westline Road bridge abutments; the identification of the Applicable or Relevant and Appropriate Requirements (“ARARs”) of Federal and State environmental laws regarding the proposed option(s) for the removal plan of action; ensuring removal activities are consistent with long term remediation plan(s), etc.
On July 14, 2016, the OSC submitted the Request for Approval and Funding for a Removal Action at the Westline Site into the Regional concurrence chain.
On August 17, 2016, the Request for Approval and Funding for a Removal Action at the Westline Site was approved.