The W. R. Grace Site, located at 112 North Street in Wilder, Campbell County, KY, is a former vermiculite expansion or exfoliation processing facility. The Site is approximately 5.4 acres in size and is bounded to the west by the CSX Railroad and Newport Steel. The Site was first owned and operated by the Zonolite Company beginning in 1953, and was subsequently purchased by W. R. Grace & Co. ("Grace") in 1960. Grace manufactured vermiculite products at this location from 1960 until the plant closed in December 1995. A petroleum products pump repair and maintenance company currently operates at this location.
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During the period that Grace operated the facility, the process utilized vermiculite ore from the Libby, Montana mine as raw material. This material contains high concentrations of asbestos fibers. It is estimated that asbestos-contaminated vermiculite was shipped to over 200 other locations across the U.S. for processing.
Vermiculite was processed by roasting the ore in a rotary kiln operated at the Site. As the trapped water in the ore evaporated, the vermiculite expanded to form a product. A screening step followed to separate the vermiculite product and the "stoner rock", a waste by-product of the manufacturing process. Grace officials have acknowledged that the stoner rock and other process wastes were disposed of in an area of the Site described as "Lot 2" from 1960 until at least the mid-1970s. There is an estimated 35,000-40,000 tons of waste material which was disposed of at the site. The disposal of by-products and other waste management practices has resulted in the contamination of an adjacent property located at the south of Lot 2, and has affected property owned by CSX, Inc., located to the west of the Site.
In January 2000, the Kentucky Department of Environmental Protection (KYDEP) was notified by Grace of possible environmental issues at the Site. In May 2000, Grace conducted a Site investigation to determine the extent of contamination relating to past disposal practices. Analytical results produced by Grace pursuant to this investigation documented the presence of tremolite and/or actinolite asbestos in subsurface and surface soil samples.
On April 2, 2001, Grace voluntarily filed for bankruptcy under Chapter 11. Subsequently, Grace notified KYDEP that it would be unable to perform further response actions at the Site. In January 2002, KYDEP contacted the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 4 to request its assistance at the Site.
EPA has determined that a CERCLA time-critical removal action is warranted at this Site. The EPA On-Scene Coordinator (OSC) observed the following conditions at the Site as a basis for determining that a removal action is necessary:
- Visual evidence of vermiculite ore and stoner rock in surface soil at various locations onsite.
- Evidence of disturbance of surface soils in areas of the Site where asbestos-containing materials (ACM) are present. This dramatically increases the potential for an airborne release of asbestos fibers.
EPA plans to initiate the removal action at this Site in September 2003, which will include the following:
- Conducting community interviews and public meetings to explain removal activities
- Providing access to public health officials who can provide information to former Grace workers and concerned citizens about possible health effects related to exposure to Libby vermiculite ore and waste products
- Further assessment of the extent of soil contamination
- Excavation of ACM disposed of at the Site
- Controlling dust to minimize airborne transport of asbestos fibers during construction activities
- Removal and offsite transportation of ACM at a permitted facility
- Restoration of disturbed areas
- Further investigation of buildings onsite where vermiculite processing occurred