United States
                 Environmental Protection
                   Solid Waste and
                   Emergency Response
   Summer 1993
£ EPA     Superfund  At Work
                 Hazardous Waste Cleanup Efforts Nationwide

Site Description:
A chemical manufacturing plant close
to downtown Nitro, West Virginia

Site Size;  11.9 acres

Primary Contaminants:
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs),
polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs),
dioxin, cyanide, asbestos, metals and

Potential Range of Health Risks:
Direct contact with affected soil and
water could result in cardiovascular
and respiratory distress; cyanide
poisoning can be deadly

Nearby Population Affected:
25,000 people within 10 miles

Ecological Concerns:
The Kanawha River is located 2,000
feet west of the site

Year Listed on NPL: 1983

EPA Region: 3

State: West Virginia

Congressional District: 3
Site investigators found hundreds of leaking storage tanks, chemical wastes
dumped into unlined lagoons, and thousands of corroded and leaking storage drums.
Success In Brief

EPA Defuses A Toxic Time Bomb

At Fike/Artel Chemical Site

  The Fike/Artel Chemical site in Nitro, West Virginia, was a sprawl-
ing chemical production facility where a composite of highly toxic and
potentially explosive contaminants had been dumped. Because of the
danger to the surrounding community and environment, the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) stabilized the contaminants
and designed a comprehensive cleanup plan for this complex site.
Emergency actions included safely detonating a cylinder of deadly
hydrogen cyanide gas, and treating and removing 5,000 drums of     J
hazardous waste and dozens of cylinders of toxic corrosive gases. In
addition, EPA's Superfund staff: .                               '
• Developed separate cleanup strategies for five different operable
  units at the site;
• Negotiated with site polluters to conduct the cleanup;
• Stabilized or removed additional wastes in on-site tanks; and
• Addressed community concerns through an active community
  relations program.
This site is a good example of how EPA's Superfund program responds
to emergency situations by taking quick actions as well as cleaning up
large volumes of hazardous waste.

                               The  Site Today
                                 To date, EPA has eliminated
                               immediate threats to the sur-
                               rounding community, and
                               completed studies to address one
                               operable unit at the site. Con-
                             ^ struction has begun to support
                             | upcoming cleanup activities.
                               Comprehensive studies of
                               contamination in the remaining
                             |f areas are under way. EPA is     ,
                               planning to negotiate with the
                             '- waste generators and former
                               owners and operators for a long-
                               term commitment to restore the
                               soil and ground water.

                    Superfund At Work  •  Fike/Artel Chemical, Nitro, WV  •  Summer 1993
  The Fike/Artel Chemical site
spans almost 12 acres in Nitro,
West Virginia. The surround-
ing area is industrial and
residential; 8,000 people live
within one mile and 25,000
people live within 10 miles. The
Kanawha River, a tributary to
the Ohio River, runs 2,000 feet
west of the site.
  The site is situated on a
World War I munitions plant.
In 1951, Roberts Chemical
began developing and produc-
ing customized chemicals there.
  In 1971, the site was re-
named Fike Chemical, Inc.
(Fike). From 1971 to 1976, Fike
produced specialty chemicals
for different companies, and
placed production wastes in
drums or unlined lagoons on
site. In addition, a variety of
other chemicals were improp-
erly stored in tanks that ulti-
A Site Snapshot

mately leaked into the soil.
   The site had 300 storage
tanks containing acids, bases,
flammables, and cyanides. An
estimated 5,000 storage drums,

    "The plant [was] an
  inferno of rusting vats,
      pipes shedding
    their insulation, and
  hundreds of oil drums"

many of them buried, con-
tained approximately 100,000
pounds of metallic sodium. In
addition, a pressurized tank
with approximately 9,000
gallons of methylmercaptan and
approximately 8,000 laboratory
containers (one gallon or
smaller) were also found on site.
   Of the site's appearance one
reporter wrote, "the plant is an
inferno of rusting vats, pipes
shedding their insulation, and
hundreds of oil drums, their
contents marked on them in
spray-painted letters. The
equipment hisses and gives off
steam and a variety of pungent
odors" (The Charleston Gazette).
  The site contamination is
extensive. The ground water,
surface water, and soil all contain
a variety of volatile organic
compounds (VOCs), dioxin,
polychlorinated biphenyls
(PCBs), cyanide, asbestos,
metals and methylmercaptan.
The Kanawha River is contami-
nated as well.
  Direct contact with these
substances could result in
cardiovascular and respiratory
distress as well as central ner-
vous sytem disorders. Cyanide
poisoning can be deadly.
                                           Page 2

                     Superfund At Work  • Fike/Artel Chemical, Nitro, WV  •   Summer1993
  Chemical Company Owners
  Resist EPA and State Orders to Clean Up Site
  In 1975, the Cooperative Sew-
age Treatment Company (CST), a
joint venture of Fike and Coastal
Tank Lines, was constructed to
treat industrial wastewater result-
ing from site operations. The CST
facility occupied less than one
acre, but consisted of three la-
goons, tanks, and sludge drying
beds that were used to contain
and treat the wastewater.
  Stormwater drainage and
contaminated water from the
chemical processing area were
carried to CST by drainage
ditches and a World War I-era
sewer system. The wastewater
was treated, although insuffi-
ciently, and the effluent was
discharged into the Kanawha
River. As a result, in 1976, Fike
was cited by the West Virginia
      Fike/Artel Chemical
      Nitro, West Virginia
Department of Natural Resources
(WVDNR) for numerous viola-
tions of the Clean Water Act.
  In 1978, WVDNR ordered
the company to dean up
their sewage and filtration
systems, and to
seal off the con-
taminated la-
goons. Fike
refused to
comply with
this order.
  Because of
the volatile
nature and massive
quantity of contaminants at the
site, WVDNR asked EPA to
investigate the site in November
1979. In 1980, Congress enacted
Superfund legislation to address
the nation's abandoned or uncon-
trolled hazardous waste sites.
Under this new authority, EPA
began investigating the site.
  In August 1982, after complet-
ing a preliminary assessment,
EPA began comprehensive stud-
                ies to deter-
                mine the
                extent of the
           In November, Fike
        was ordered to dike and
    pave the areas, cover the main
  waste disposal area, and treat
 the contaminated water. Fike did
not comply. So in September 1983,
EPA placed the site on the National
Priorities List (NPL), the nation's
roster of hazardous waste sites
eligible for cleanup with federal
    Fike/Artel Chemical
    Site Timeline
                     * Fike secures site, but permit violations cont

                                 • Stte added to NPL <(

              * EPA orders Fike to address contamination <•
                          * Fike does not comply  ]
                                                 > EPA begins preliminary investigations
                              WVDNR orders cleanup of sewage, filtration, lagoons
                                                    does not comply
                                 * WVDNR fines Rke for Clean
                                       Water Act violations
                         * Roberts Chemical renamed
                                  Fike Chemical
           Specialty chemicals manufactured on site

 *  A
1982  1!

                       Superfund At Work
                               Fike/Artel Chemical, Nitro, WV
Summer 1993
   In early March 1984, EPA
 ordered Fike to secure the site
 from public access, and Fike
 complied. For the remaining
 months of 1984, EPA issued
 several orders to Fike to address
 violations of their permit to accept
 and store hazardous waste. Fike

       EPA's Emergency
       Response Team
         began efforts
       to move materials
           posing the
   most immediate threats

 failed to comply and so its permit
 was revoked in 1985. The com-
 pany paid a $5,000 fine for the
                        Violations Continue
                        Despite New Ownership
                          In May 1986, the company was
                        purchased by Artel Chemical Co.
                        (Artel). The former owner of Fike
                        stayed on as the site manager,
                        however, and the violations
                        continued. In both June and
                        September 1986, WVDNR in-
                        spected the site and found that
                        company personnel had been
                        mishandling and improperly
                        treating the wastes on site. The
                        state fined Artel $165,000 for these
                        violations, but Artel did not pay
                        the fine. In January 1987, WVDNR
                        ordered the company to inventory
                        site wastes, and develop a plan to
                        identify and manage on-site wastes.
                          In May 1987, EPA and Artel
                        entered into negotiations to dean
 up the site but were unable to
 reach an agreement. In June 1988,
 Artel stopped paying its employ-
 ees and abandoned the site. The
 materials left behind posed
 an immediate and substantial
 endangerment, and so WVDNR
 asked EPA to take over responsi-
 bility for the site.
   EPA subsequently divided
 the site into five distinct project
 areas, called operable unite,
 to more effectively address the
 contamination. Due to the history
 of non-compliance at this site,
 EPA decided to conduct the
 immediate cleanup and to recover
 the costs from the owners, opera-
 tors and waste generators at a
 later date.
               continued on page 5
  > • Rke permit revoked
• Site purchased by Artel Chemical Co.
•WVDNR tints Artel $165,000
            /• Negotiations with Artel collapse
           'Artel abandons site
           • EPA removes drum, storage (ante, hydrogen cyanide cylinder
                              Cleanup erf plant equipment and chemicals (planned)

                                    r>. Cleanup of soil and ground water (planned)
1985 1986  1987  1988    1993      1997
                                    1999     2003
                                     Page 4  ——

                     Superfund At Work  •  Fike/Artel Chemical, Nitro, WV
                              Summer 1993
   Owners Resist EPA and  State Orders
continued from page 4
EPA Defuses
An Explosive Situation
  On June 11,1988, workers from
EPA's Emergency Response
Team identified a steel cylinder
containing deadly hydrogen
cyanide gas that could explode if
disturbed. Workers evacuated
approximately 2,500 members of
the community before destroying
the cylinder. EPA specialists

     Workers evacuated
       2,500 residents
      before destroying
     a cylinder of deadly
    hydrogen cyanide gas

placed explosive charges on the
cylinder to cut it into three sec-
tions. The detonation simulta-
neously burned off the hydrogen
cyanide gas.
  In July, EPA's Emergency
Response Team began efforts to
remove materials that posed the
most immediate threats, includ-
ing the drums and the storage
tanks. Throughout the summer,
workers removed approximately
5,000 drums, drained the storage
tanks and removed the contami-
nated wastes.
  Beginning in August 1988, two
of the responsible parties also
began removing wastes from the
site. American Cyanamid re-
moved a railcar of sulfuric acid
and about 9,600 gallons of
methylmercaptan in spring 1989.
Union Carbide removed about
55,000 pounds of sodium.
   Following efforts to locate
other waste contributors, EPA
negotiated the cleanup of oper-
able unit two, which requires
dismantling and removing a
former processing facility. The
     Flames from a controlled explosion burned off the
     dangerous hydrogen cyanide gas
          steel cylinder)
          impact in
                                      Soil mounded
                                      over canister
                                      Sandbags piled
                                      on mound to
                                      contain explosion
responsible parties have agreed
to do the work. Remedial actions
for operable unit two are sched-
uled to begin in the summer of 1993.

Workers Face
Future Challenges
  Despite EPA's emergency
actions, workers now estimate
that they will not be finished until
after the year 2000. The third and
fourth operable units pose distinct
long-term challenges. The objec-
tive of operable unit three is to
excavate and dispose of an esti-

   Other cleanup activities
      address soil and
        ground water

mated 7,000 to 16,000 buried
drums and containers and incin-
erate them off site. This excavation
will prevent any risk to workers
during future site activities.
  Operable unit four will address
the soil and ground water con-
tamination, and operable unit five
will consist of cleaning up CST's
wastewater treatment facility.
Cleanup workers are studying
both areas to determine the best
cleanup strategy. EPA plans to
dismantle the CST facility once all
of the other contamination has
been addressed.
  Negotiations are ongoing for
operable unit three; EPA antici-
pates  initiating negotiations for
operable units four and five in the
near future.
                                            Page 5

                     Superfund At Work
      Fike/Artel Chemical, Nitro, WV
Summer 1993
Community Relies on
 "the Experts" to Remedy Situation
  Many residents of Nitro work
at chemical manufacturing com-
panies in the area, and expressed
concern that EPA's action at the
Fike/Artel Chemical site would
lead to closures of other nearby
  Unlike these other companies,
the Fike/Artel Chemical site had
been seriously mishandled by its
owners. EPA assured Nitro resi-
dents that facilities in compliance
with environmental regulations
would not face closure. When
asked about EPA's involvement at
the site, both residents and local
officials stated that they were
"relying on the experts" to rem-
edy the situation.
   EPA's program to keep the
public informed included:
issuing regular fact sheets; hold-
ing open meetings at which the
progress at the site was discussed;
holding press briefings; and
opening a local information
repository for site documents.
    For additional copies of this or other
  Superfund At Work updates, contact the
   National Technical Information Service,
  U.S. Department of Commerce, 5285 Port
    Royal Road, Sprmgfield,VA 22161,
       telephone (703) 487-4650.
  If you wish to be added to or deleted from
   our mailing list or to comment on this
  bulletin's content, length or format, please
   call (703) 603-8984 or send a letter to
      Superfund At Work (5502G),
  401 M Street SW, Washington, DC 20460
 United States Environmental Protection Agency
 Washington, D.C. 20460

 Official Business
 Penalty for Private Use $300
       Success at


     The immediate danger
   has been eliminated, and
   EPA is continuing studies to
   determine the full extent of
   the soil and ground water
   contamination. A long-term
   cleanup of the site will be
   necessary. The responsible
   parties have agreed to
   dismantle a former process-
   ing facility and are currently
   negotiating to remove
   thousands of additional
   buried drums. EPA is work-
   ing to recover its costs for
   emergency operations from
   the responsible parties.
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