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Hazardous Waste Cleanup: International Waxes Incorporated in Smethport, Pennsylvania

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Cleanup Status

EPA proposed a remedy for the facility in August 2018, consisting of the establishment of a Technical Impracticability (TI) zone and long-term surface water monitoring program, in addition to implementing land and groundwater use restrictions summarized below and described in more detail in the proposed Statement of Basis.

Cleanup Background

Remedial investigations at the facility began in 1984. LNAPL skimming was implemented in smaller-diameter monitoring wells in the impacted area of the Main Plant in 1994. Dual-phase recovery wells were initially installed in 1995 to recover LNAPL and impacted groundwater beneath the Main Plant Area; expansions to the recovery system (installation of additional recovery wells) occurred in 2009 and 2010.

In August 2004, the facility submitted a Notice of Intent to Remediate under PADEP’s Act 2 program. Remediation has been completed for the former Coal Ash Disposal Area and the Area South of Cole Creek; final reports for these areas were approved in September 2009 and November 2010, respectively.  The Remedial Investigation and Risk Assessment (RIRA) and Cleanup Plan (CUP) reports for the Main Plant Area were approved in April 2013 and May 2014, respectively.

As proposed in the Main Plant Area Cleanup Plan, a one-year monitored shut-down of the LNAPL recovery system began in June 2014 to evaluate dissolved-phase constituents and LNAPL footprint stability under static groundwater conditions. Small sheens contained between a partially submerged pipe and the creek bank (i.e., the sheen did not reach the open water of the creek) occurred intermittently from 2015 until 2017, when the streambank was rehabilitated to eliminate sheen occurrence. Since completion of this work, no sheen or signs of erosion or destabilization have occurred in the area.

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Site Description

Interactive Map of International Waxes Incorporated in Smethport, Pennsylvania

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The International Waxes facility (Facility) is located at the intersection of Routes 46 and 446 in Farmers Valley, McKean County, Pennsylvania.  The Facility is divided into three separate areas for remedial purposes: the Main Plant Area located west of Potato Creek and north of Cole Creek, the Area South of Cole Creek, and the Former Coal Ash Disposal Area located east of Potato Creek.

Refinery operations started on the site in 1923.  The Facility was originally a petroleum crude oil refinery facility.  In 1981, under Quaker State ownership, the Facility was converted from a petroleum refinery to a wax processing plant.  The Facility no longer manufactures gasoline, fuel oils, or lubricant.  Any materials removed during the de-oiling process were sold to a petroleum refinery in 1981.  In 1990 the Facility was sold to Petrowax, who was acquired by Astor Corporation in 1995.  Allied Signal acquired Astor and the Facility in 1997, and in 1999 Allied Signal merged with Honeywell, who divested the wax business to International Group in 2005 while retaining ownership of the property.

The plant’s principal operation is to remove the oil from the wax.  The plant processes waxy feed stocks into finished waxes.  The wax produced at the plant is used in waterproof cups and paper plates, as well as in the manufacture of automobile tires and candles.

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Contaminants at this Facility

Primary contaminants at the facility include petroleum constituents and metals.  A plume of light non-aqueous phase liquid (LNAPL) is present in shallow groundwater underneath the Main Plant Area and, to a lesser extent, the Area South of Cole Creek.  The LNAPL plume does not appear to affect the deep aquifer and appears to be relatively stable (i.e., the plume is not migrating appreciably).  The potential for vapors from this plume to impact workers inside buildings in certain areas of the Facility may be significant; therefore, an institutional control prohibiting building construction in these areas is required. All other potential exposure routes to contamination at the Facility are being controlled by either institutional controls (e.g., shallow groundwater use prohibited and land use restricted) or engineering controls (e.g., sheet pile wall to prevent plume infiltration to surface water bodies). 

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Institutional and Engineering Controls at this Facility

Several institutional controls have been or will be implemented at the facility:

  • Land use restricted to non-residential purposes only
  • Groundwater use prohibition (except for deep aquifer)
  • No withdrawal of groundwater within shallow or intermediate aquifer underneath facility
  • Maintain integrity of capped portions of Coal Ash Disposal Area 1 and 2 and former Tank Bottoms Area
  • Prohibition of building structures within former Gasoline Platforming Area and specific areas within Main Plant

More detailed information on these institutional and other engineering controls are discussed in the environmental covenant.

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Land Reuse Information at this Facility

International Waxes continues to produce waxy feed stocks and finished waxes at the facility.

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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 PA DEP.

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