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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requested that the Pennsylvania Department of Health (PADOH) investigate the Hammermill Scott Run site and evaluate the risk to children who might play or dig soil on site, and the threats to surface water and groundwater from chemicals migrating off site. PADOH concluded that drums, open lagoons and other physical hazards present serious on-site risks to children and should be removed in the interest of public health and safety. However, hazardous chemicals are not leaving the site at levels of health concern.


The Hammermill-Scott Run site is about one-quarter mile south of Route 5 along Scott Run in Harborcreek Township, Erie County, Pennsylvania (Figures 1 and 2). A 5 acre heavily wooded area, just north of Scott Run, was used by the Hammermill Paper Company for disposal of pulp and paper waste in the 1960s. During that time interval, wood mulch was stored (piled) on site and two dug lagoons received various wastes, including drummed waste (1). No known waste disposal permits were obtained by the land owner (1). As a result of several real estate transactions, the site and about 182 additional adjacent acres now belong to Harborcreek Township. All 187 acres are used as a recreational park (2). EPA requested PADOH evaluate potential public health risks for visitors to the site and the likelihood of off-site contaminant migration in surface water, sediment, and groundwater at levels of public health concern.

In July 1988, an EPA contractor performed a site inspection (SI) and collected environmental media samples for the purpose of characterizing on-site wastes and determining the potential for off-site migration. Samples were collected from soil, sediment, surface water, and the contents of one of an estimated 50 drums (1), none of which were removed. In addition, the contractor collected water samples from four nearby private residential wells. No monitoring wells exist on or near the site. Residential wells are upgradient to the northwest and not impacted by the site (Figure 2). One residential well had manganese concentrations at levels of human health concern. The drum that was sampled contains antimony, cadmium, chromium, and lead at levels of human health concern. Soil and sediment samples in the drum disposal area have levels of arsenic exceeding our comparison values. DDT was detected on-site as well as in the background samples taken upstream of the site. No remedial or removal action has been taken at this site.

Site Visit

On June 5, 1998, Barbara Allerton and J.E. Godfrey of the PADOH visited the site with a representative from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP). Heavy summer vegetation covered most of the site forcing investigators to use worn footpaths during the survey. Both lagoons (Figure 3) were partly filled with water despite recent dry weather. A resident who frequently uses the area for walking said that during heavy rains the lagoons fill and sometimes overflow. The mulch pile has been largely depleted, apparently by local citizens using it for flower beds and landscaping (oral communication with resident). A spent shotgun shell and beverage cans with holes attested to the use of the mulch area for target shooting.

A dangerous, make-shift foot bridge of lumber and logs has been constructed across Scott Run. People attempting to cross it could easily fall off or through gaping holes between logs. Investigators counted at least 27 drums and drum carcasses on site in various states of repair. Some drums have been used for target practice. The contents of the intact drums is not known and, as reported in the 1988 SI, some are still partly buried. Rusted, jagged edges are exposed on some of the drums. Irregularly shaped, off-white and blue colored waste materials were in the area where the drums lay. Those materials looked similar to paper and paint wastes. We saw bicycle and other recreational vehicle tracks throughout the site on the trails and in the mulch storage area. A seep resembling a leachate seep (heavily iron stained) near the mouth of an intermittent drainage channel discharged into Scott Run.

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