U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regional administrator Shawn Garvin recently commemorated the opening of a new water treatment system in a ribbon-cutting ceremony. The new system will remove contamination from the ground water at the Crossley Farm Superfund site in Hereford Township in Berks County, Pennsylvania.

“This construction project, which used approximately $6.5 million in funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and created more than 60 jobs, demonstrates EPA’s commitment to transforming the contaminated ground water associated with this Superfund site back to beneficial use for the local community,” says Garvin. “The people of Hereford Township can look upon this site as a tremendous success story.”

Located on 200 acres of farmland, the Crossley Farm site once was used for dumping various wastes, resulting in a trichloroethylene (TCE)-contaminated ground water plume. As part of EPA’s ongoing long-term cleanup plan for the site, the pump-and-treat system will treat the TCE contamination in the ground water. Underground piping connects the new treatment plant to four wells where the contaminated water is pumped to the plant and treated before being discharged on farm property adjacent to Perkiomen Creek. The system, which includes four extraction wells that can pump a total of about 450 gallons per minute, will help prevent the contaminated plume of ground water from spreading.

The ground water will be treated with air-stripping technology to remove the TCE contamination. The water then will go through carbon filtration before it is discharged. The vapors coming from the air stripping treatment also will be treated before being released.

EPA received about $6.47 million in funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 to accelerate construction of the treatment plant and the cleanup. This Recovery Act funding was part of the $600 million that Congress appropriated to the federal Superfund remedial program.

The EPA previously had installed a monitoring well system at the site as part of the cleanup efforts. Levels of TCE have been measured in the ground water as high as 700,000 micrograms per liter. The drinking water standard for TCE is 5 micrograms per liter.

History of the Crossley Farm Superfund Site

From the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s, Bally Case and Cooler, a nearby company, reportedly sent drums of liquid waste to Crossley Farm for disposal. Until 1970, Bally used TCE, the contaminant found in the ground water, as a degreaser.

In 1983, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Resources (PADEP) sampled residential wells downhill from the site, and found that they were contaminated with various volatile organic compounds (VOCs), including trichloroethylene. At that time, the agency issued a warning to residents not to drink water from their residential wells, and the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency provided temporary bottled water for the community.

In 1987, EPA began a regional ground water study, which concluded that a large area of TCE-contaminated ground water began at the 24-acre crest of Blackhead Hill, and extended two and half miles south of the farm. Public and private wells within four miles of the site supply drinking water to an estimated 4,800 people. The closest private well is less than a mile from Crossley Farm.

In 1998, EPA uncovered 1,200 drums buried in an old pit on the farm. The drums and contaminated soils were excavated and properly disposed at a permitted facility.

In 2000, EPA installed 55 carbon treatment systems in homes where contaminants were detected in the wells, and PADEP is responsible for the long-term operation and maintenance of these units. PADEP and EPA continue to monitor and sample more than 100 wells in the vicinity of the site. These tests are done every two years to determine if more home treatment units are needed.

From 2006 to 2010, the EPA conducted a site evaluation to determine if any contaminants could be found in the indoor air of nearby residential properties. Traces of TCE vapors were found in air samples taken from the ground below some houses. Two homes were determined to have TCE vapors in their indoor air, and two mitigation (venting) systems were installed on those two homes.  

In July 2008, the EPA decided that the extraction and monitoring area should be expanded to include the portion of the ground water plume that flows down to the bottom of Black Head Hill. The extraction wells should contain the ground water plume, and keep it from migrating any further off site.