Pennsylvania OKs Bear Creek Cleanup Plan

Work to remove and dispose of old industrial wastes that have contaminated water wells throughout northeastern Butler County and northwestern Armstrong County will soon resume now that the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has approved a plan by URS Corp. to address the Hemlock Road dump site.

The dump, located in Fairview and Parker townships, Butler County, is part of the Bear Creek Chemical Site, which is regarded as the largest cleanup project in Pennsylvania, according to a Sept 10 press release.

"To protect the health of local residents, developing the public water system was the highest priority of this large-scale project," said DEP Northwest Regional Director Kelly Burch. "Now that the public water system is operating and providing clean drinking water to 826 homes and businesses, we’re able to turn our attention to this latest cleanup effort. The Hemlock Road project will further reduce the potential that humans and the environment are exposed to contaminants."

The Hemlock Road dump site is an abandoned strip mine where most of the waste material was placed into two pits and is under water. Other waste material at the site is on the ground’s surface.

Earlier studies have shown that soil and groundwater were contaminated with resorcinol, sulfonic acids, metals, formaldehyde, and semi-volatile organic compounds as a result of historic industrial disposal.

The thickness of the deposited waste ranges from a thin veneer of a few inches to areas up to four-feet thick on the surface, while the submerged deposits are up to nine-feet deep. The total volume of waste is estimated to be approximately 5,900 cubic yards.

This fall, URS Corp. will excavate contaminated wastes and soils, solidify liquid wastes, dispose of the waste material at an approved facility, then grade, and vegetate the excavated areas.

The commonwealth is investing nearly $1 million to investigate and clean up the Hemlock Road site through the Hazardous Site Cleanup Program, which enables DEP to protect public health and safety by addressing air, soil, and groundwater contamination.

The Bear Creek Area Chemical Site cleanup has a total projected cost of $40 million. The cost of the Hemlock Road clean-up project is $950,000.