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Hazardous Waste Cleanup: U.S. Steel Corporation MVW Fairless Works in Fairless Hills, Pennsylvania

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                              A public notice for Corrrective Action Cleanup Proposal has been posted with comment period ending January 3, 2021.
                              A public notice for Prospective Purchase Agreement has been posted with comment period ending January 29, 2021.

Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) Corrective Action activities at the U.S. Steel - Fairless Works  facility are being conducted as a joint lead by EPA and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection's (PADEP’s) Land Recycling Program (Act 2). The investigation and any necessary clean-up activities are being implemented in accordance with a federal Corrective Action Order and the Act 2 Program.

Cleanup Status

Environmental Investigation and clean-up are proceeding in concert with the redevelopment and sales of individual parcels of the property. Investigation and remediation, approved by both EPA and PADEP occurs before re-sale. As each of the parcels is sold, an environmental covenant is signed by the new and former owners, detailing the type of land-use and groundwater use controls appropriate for the parcel. This covenant runs with the land and binds each new owner to its restrictions.

In March 2004, EPA determined that the Human Health Exposures Under Control Environmental Indicator had been met. This Environmental Indicator evaluation took into account the soils investigation and the facility’s intention to restrict the future use of the land to industrial scenarios only, and the groundwater to non-potable uses. In September 2016,  EPA determined that the Migration of Contaminated Groundwater  Under Control Environmental Indicator had been met.

Cleanup Background

In 1993, EPA and U.S. Steel entered into a Consent Order for clean-up of the Fairless Works site. The Consent Order incorporated the entire 2500-acre facility. The 68 areas identified for further investigation include former production and disposal areas. During construction of Fairless Works, numerous borrow pits were excavated to provide fill material to raise the main facility site above the elevation of the 100-year floodplain. Slag and other materials were deposited in these borrow pits over many years.

In 1998, the facility expressed interest in obtaining a release from liability which is available for remediation performed under the Pennsylvania Act 2 Land Recycling Program. The release from liability will aide in redevelopment of the property. The redevelopment plan is designed to revitalize the Levittown area, which experienced the loss of over 5,000 jobs in the 1980s and 1990s. U.S. Steel has converted over 450 acres of the uncontaminated areas to parcels for lease and sale. The 24 companies which have relocated to the site have brought in 1,800 new jobs. The U.S. Steel property is within a “Keystone Opportunity Zone,” with tax incentives for industry located or re-locating there. They are marketing the parcels to heavy industry, as their location near interstate highways and the on-site deep water port on the Delaware River is conducive to industrial operations.

In order to expedite the clean-up and redevelopment of the site, EPA, PADEP and U.S. Steel have formed a team to proceed with the environmental investigations. The team is first focusing its efforts on parcels of the property which have been identified for lease or sale.

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Site Description

Interactive map of U.S. Steel Corporation MVW Fairless Works, Fairless Hills, PA

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Located on the west bank of the Delaware River, approximately 20 miles northeast of Philadelphia, PA, U.S. Steel’s Fairless Works has been in operation since 1952. Fairless Works consists of approximately 2500 acres, on which were located a coke production plant, steel making operations, finishing and forging operations, a power house, and a chemical plant. The site is still home to a U.S. Steel finishing facility:  the sheet and tin mill, but the rest of the operations closed down between 1982 and 1991. As part of the redevelopment of the site for future industrial use, demolition of the inactive facilities occurred between 1993 and 1995.

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Contaminants at this Facility

The characterization conducted at the U.S. Steel Fairless Works Plant divided the site into several sections, the Solid Waste Management Unit (SWMU) areas, the non-SWMU areas, and Site-wide Groundwater.

U.S. Steel’s redevelopment of the Fairless property began with the characterization of the non-SWMU areas. These areas are generally on the perimeter of the site, and have not been greatly impacted by industrial activity. Historical waste handling and waste storage have not been located at these areas. Characterization of the soils has shown very little contamination. Primarily inorganic constituents have been detected and the data shows that almost all the constituents are below the non-residential health-based standards.

U.S. Steel’s redevelopment plan for Fairless Works also includes re-use of most of the SWMU areas. Much of this area consists of filled-in borrow-pits. Currently the surface material of these borrowpits is slag and/or soil. Surface soil sampling has occurred at or near some of the borrow-pits. Results show low levels of inorganic constituents, such as lead and iron, spread across the borrow-pit areas. Some localized organic contamination, primarily naphthalene, has been found. Contamination is generally in the 10 (to Minus five Power)  risk range for nonresidential soils.

A limited number of areas throughout the Fairless Works property were found to be sources of contamination to groundwater. These areas are localized, contributing small amounts of organic contaminants, such as trichloroethylene (TCE), benzene, and naphthalene and inorganic constituents, such as mercury, lead, and iron. The groundwater results show levels elevated above the drinking water standards, however, the water under the site is not used as a drinking water source.

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Institutional and Engineering Controls at this Facility

Institutional Controls on parcels selected for redevelopment limit land use to non-residential purposes and also restrict groundwater to non-potable use.

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Land Reuse Information at this Facility

 The site is under redevelopment.

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Site Responsibility at this Facility

RCRA Corrective Action activities at this facility have been conducted under the direction of EPA Region 3 with assistance from PADEP.

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