Fluoride Action Network

Cryolite. Elf Atochem’s contaminated site in Bensalem Township, Pennsylvania

US EPA. Interim Final 2/5/99. Documentation of Environmental Indicator Determination. RCRA

Facility Background: The approximately 25-acre site property located along the Delaware River shoreline in Cornwells Heights, Bensalem Township, PA was first developed by a concrete shipbuilding company in 1917. This company reportedly went out of business shortly after World War I. The next known operator at the site was the Penn Salt Refining Company, which purchased the property in 1940 and used it primarily for warehousing of its products. From 1943 through the end of World War II, the U.S. Government owned the facility and used the property for sulfuric acid, hydrogen fluoride and cryolite production, as well as aluminum refining. Penn Salt, which later became the Pennwalt Corporation, repurchased the property from the U.S. Government shortly after the war.

Site operations under the Pennwalt Corp. included the blending of chemicals for cleaning and lubricating agents used in the laundry and metal working industries, and the repackaging of bulk materials such as refrigerants and hydrochloric acid. These activities continued from the 1950s through the 1990s. In December 1989, Atochem became the owner of the property after a merger with Pennwalt and another company, M&T Chemicals. In 1997, all manufacturing operations were terminated, equipment was removed from the property and the buildings were decommissioned.

A pH neutralization treatment system was installed at the facility in 1972 to treat the process wastewater that was previously pumped into two retention ponds in the undeveloped portion of the property. The ponds, constructed in approximately 1950 with no engineered liners, did not have a discharge point so any liquids pumped into the ponds were allowed to evaporate or percolate into the ground. Prior to the construction of the ponds, process wastewater was discharged into an Infiltration Ditch, located along the western property boundary.

Other areas of concern identified by former employees at the facility or from previous site investigations include a Storm Water Drainage Channel, Surface Depression Area, Railroad Spurlines, two Transformer Areas, a Former Sulfur Storage Area, two former Underground Storage Tank (UST) Areas, a Former Aboveground Storage Tank (AST) Area, Former Hydrofluoric Acid Loading Platform, Former Septic Field, Former Forane Storage/Loading Area, Building Nos. 2 and 3, the canal located along the eastern property boundary, and two hot spot areas containing high concentrations of chlorinated organics in groundwater.

The site is currently owned by Bensalem Redevelopment, LP (BRLP), which plans to redevelop the property into residential and commercial space. BRLP is seeking a release of environmental liability under the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s (PADEP) Act II Land Recycling Program and has entered into a Facility Lead Agreement with EPA to ensure that all of its RCRA Corrective Action obligations will be met.

Ref: US EPA. Interim Final 2/5/99. DOCUMENTATION OF ENVIRONMENTAL INDICATOR DETERMINATION. RCRA Corrective Action Environmental Indicator (EI) RCRIS code (CA725)

Site Responsibility
RCRA Corrective Action activities at this facility are being conducted under the direction of EPA Region 3 with assistance from the State. Bensalem Redevelopment LP is seeking a release from liability under PADEP’s Land Recy cling (Act II) Program.
The groundwater at the site contains elevated levels of a few chlorinated organic chemicals and a few metals. The groundwater is not used as a drinking water source; however, it does discharge into the Delaware River.

Community Interaction
Bensalem Redevelopment, LP borders the Delaware River and is located in an industrial/ commercial area. The facility is situated within an area designated as a State Enterprise Zone. Designated enterprise zones are given priority consideration to facilitate identified business investment and job creation opportunities. The Bucks County Redevelopment Authority (BCRA) has received a site assessment grant from Pennsylvania’s Department of Community and Economic Development to conduct the investigation described above. Bensalem Township along with BCRA also applied for EPA’s Brownfield Assessment, Revolving Loan Fund, and Cleanup Grants for site remediation.

Government Contact
EPA Project Manager
Mr. Andrew Clibanoff – 3WC22
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – Region III
1650 Arch Street Philadelphia, PA 19103-2029
Phone: (215) 814-3391
Email: clibanoff.andrew@epa.gov

Ref: EPA’s Update as of Dec 31, 2004

See also:

June 12, 2005: EPA announces funding for redevelopment in Bucks County. Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection

Plans for the redevelopment of the former Elf Atochem site, now known as Riverfront South, include offices, retail stores, restaurants and housing in a traditional neighborhood setting. Four acres of public green space along the Delaware River is also planned as a part of the revitalization of the Delaware River waterfront in Bucks County, which includes improving public access and creating a riverwalk.

The cleanup of this 26 acre site will require remediating soils contaminated with volatile organic compounds and caustics. The cleanup is estimated at $5 million.  This site has already had extensive site assessment under EPA’s Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) corrective program. When the cleanup is complete, it will achieve RCRA’s corrective action goals and Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Act II Land Recycling Program cleanup standards, a part of the one-clean up approach.

Fact Sheet: Former Elf Atochem North America (Bensalem Redevelopment) Cornwell Heights, PA