The Environmental Protection Agency has presented the residents of Ambler, Pennsylvania, a small town in the suburbs of Philadelphia, a final, long-term asbestos disposal plan for controlling the mounds of asbestos left behind at the so-called BoRit site, a spot that’s become infamously name as “the white mountains of Ambler.”
The 38-acre property, which actually spans Ambler Borough and the neighboring townships of Upper Dublin and Whitpain, was long used by Keasbey and Mattison Company as a disposal site for asbestos-containing materials. That practice occurred for the better part of a century, notes an article in the Times Herald.
And while a fair amount of work has already been completed at BoRit, which became a Superfund National Priorities site in 2009, there is much to think about in regards to the future, the EPA told a group of concerned citizens recently gathered together to hear their plan.
The EPA began efforts to eliminate any immediate risks shortly after the site was placed on the priorities list eight years ago. That included “capping” the mounds of asbestos with clean soil.
Following the initial efforts, a multi-year study was completed, examining potential ways to address the presence of asbestos for the long term. It’s the results of that study that were presented to the public and they have until March 3 to respond with questions and opinions.
Currently, said Jill Rowe, who is the manager for the BoRit EPA project, they would like to move ahead with more capping in order to stabilize the site. She notes that much of this work has already been done and explained to those gathered how the job would be completed.
“Under the capping method, in most places on the site, geotextile material is placed atop the asbestos, topped with 2 feet of clean soil, then topsoil and finally a vegetative cover,” Lowe explained. “In other places, the clean soil level would be 10 to 15 inches deep but would also be topped with concrete cable mats, while in other spots there would be 2 to 10 feet of clean soil topped by a clay liner.”
This is the same process followed in the initial effort and it means the waste will be left in place. This is a preferable method when there is so much waste to be removed, the EPA explained.
As such, the agency will proceed with five-year checks to make sure the soil has not been compromised as time passes. Lowe says this plan profiles EPA’s main concern, which is the health and safety of those who live and work in the area.
Other safeguards will include quarterly visual site inspections, annual sampling, and creating protocols for regular maintenance as well as plans for handling emergencies, such as extreme weather that might disturb the capped mounds of asbestos material.
Capping was the least costly option offered, coming in at a price of $27 million total. $25 million of that amount has already been spent. Other costlier options would have included site excavation and disposal off-site ($269 million) or heating and solidification of the waste ($257 million), which is a method that has not been proven to the level needed to be to applied at BoRit, Lowe said.
Another possibility was the building of a high-temperature treatment plant at the site, which would have turned the asbestos into a lava-like material that would then have been placed back at the site. The cost for that would have been $267 million.