Buzz Blog: WADE TOXIC DUMP MARCH 27TH, 2017

Hello again fellow Hazmatters and welcome back to the BuzzBlog.

I hope you enjoy this edition as I will present the collision of soccer and hazmat response. My friends and co-workers that know me personally can attest that I am a pretty big soccer fan. I follow the Philadelphia Union soccer team that plays in the Major League Soccer (MLS) professional league. The team began play in March of 2010. The team’s new stadium was built on the Chester waterfront south of the city and opened that same year. This season marks their 8th as a member of the league. Every March a new season begins with 17,000 fans descending on the waterfront venue. The Commodore Barry Bridge provides a scenic background for all the home games. Just north of the bridge, sits a small parking lot for fans to use.

Many that park in this lot do not even realize they are walking on sacred ground to members of the local fire service. What these fans may not know is that this site used to be the one of the worst toxic waste dumps in history. The Wade Toxic Dump (as it is known) helped spur landmark legislation. The legislation passed in 1980, became known as the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). We know this better as the Superfund Act. I never knew anything about the site’s history until a fellow responder shared an article with me in 2013. The article was in the Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper on April 30th, 2000.

This is the link to the article

There are 8 parts to this article. You can also read a shortened version on the opening page. I would highly recommend you take the time to read the long version. The story will grab your attention from the start. Once you start reading, you will not be able to stop. Inquirer staff writers Susan Stranahan and Larry King will astound you with the depth of their story. The writers tell the story through the eyes of the first responders.

They will also highlight the sacrifices made by the families throughout this ordeal. The research they have done for this article leaves little doubt in my mind of the problems caused by toxic exposures. The cancer and disease rate among these responders is not just a coincidence. In some cases, cancer rates are 5 times that of the average population is manifesting in those that fought the Wade fire.

Many of the chemicals present in this fire could also be present in modern day fires. The list of presumptive cancers from service in the FD is growing. The IAFF website lists the states with presumptive cancer laws.

Here is the link to that list

The fire took place on Feb. 2nd, 1978 at 1 Flower St. in Chester, PA. The Wade Toxic Dump was a monstrosity. There was over 3 million gallons of chemicals dumped there. In an era of rampant toxic waste dumping, this was one of the largest ever to be discovered at the time. Cyanides, PCB’s, benzene, toluene and other chemicals were dumped there. No consideration was given to incompatible chemicals in the toxic brew that was created there.

More than a dozen state and federal environmental agents and at least two Chester officials knew of the dump 10 months before the place caught fire. There was never a notification to the local FD’s as to what was happening on the Chester river front. The after effects on responders were staggering. 21 cancers were diagnosed to members by 1988. Since that time, 18 new cancers appeared. The death toll from disease is around 20 at the time of the article. How many more have been diagnosed or died from these exposures since the article was written?

The Superfund Act was created in response to toxic dumps such as this. Several pieces of legislation were already passed to address other issues. The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act(RCRA, 1976) gave us the term from “cradle to the grave”. RCRA created regulations to control hazardous materials from generation to disposal. 1976 also saw creation of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). TSCA gave the EPA the authority to protect public health and the environment by controlling toxic chemicals that pose unreasonable risk of injury. The Superfund Act came about in response to uncontrolled waste dumping such as the Wade Toxic Dump. Incidents in Love Canal, NY, Elizabeth and Bridgeton, NJ also contributed to the creation of the Superfund.

How did the name Superfund come about from CERCLA? Superfund is actually a trust fund created by CERCLA. This trust fund is used to finance emergency response and cleanups of superfund sites. The first highly publicized Superfund cleanup came in Kentucky in 1981. The cleanup site was nicknamed “Valley of the Drums” and over 4000 drums were removed. Protective measures were also put in place to protect the environment once the cleanup was complete. The Wade (ABM) site as it is listed on the EPA website was removed from the Superfund list in 1989. Here is the link to the EPA Superfund Site page for the Wade Toxic Dump.

You can also learn about sites in your region by using the map on the Superfund home page. CERCLA was amended in 1986 by the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act(SARA). The EPA created SARA to update and make changes to the Superfund. The changes were based on the EPA’s experience in administering the Superfund. SARA Title III may be the most significant portion of this updated regulation. Title III is actually a separate law unto itself. It was created as a result of the methyl isocyanate gas disaster in Bhopal, India. 3800 people were killed as a result of this accidental release.

The Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act or EPCRA is what we may commonly know SARA Title III to be named. EPCRA has 4 main components. The components are as follows: emergency planning, notifications for releases, storage reporting requirements and toxic chemical release inventories. The emergency planning and reporting requirements probably affect us the most as responders.

State Emergency Response Commissions (SERC) and Local Emergency Planning Committees(LEPC) are mandated under the emergency planning provision. SERC’s and LEPC’s are tasked with carrying out provisions of SARA Title III at the state and local level. Reporting requirements mandate that MSDS’s are provided to the SERC, LEPC and the local FD. Tier II forms are usually submitted to these groups to report chemical inventories.

The forms contain all necessary and relevant information on these facilities. A disaster that occurred in 1989 is one that we are all too familiar with. The Exxon Valdez spilled 11 million gallons of crude in off the Prince Albert Sound in Alaska. The incident was covered extensively in the media. The increased public consciousness drew awareness to the Superfund Acts and oil spill planning and response. Congress passed the Oil Pollution Act(OPA) in 1990 due to the spill.

The OPA gave responsibility for these spills to the Oil industry as well as a tax based compensation trust fund. The EPA Superfund page provides a wealth of information on this and many other relevant topics for environmental protection.

I would also recommend listening to the Hazmat Guys Podcast Episodes 51 and 52 Bob and Mike cover the laws, regulations and standards we need to be aware of with these episodes.

On behalf of the myself and everyone at hazmatnation.com, I would like to offer condolences to the family, friends co-workers and Delaware fire service on the loss of Dr. Krissy Kreutzer. She passed away on March 10th, 2017. Krissy was a chemist with the Dupont Corp. in Wilmington DE. She was a vital part of hazmat response in her home state and across the United States. The Hazmat response community has a huge void to fill with her passing. Until next time, everyone stay safe!!

About The Author

Kevin Ryan is a member of the Baltimore City FD Hazmat Operations. He has been involved in hazmat response for over 15 years and a fire service member for 25 years. He is currently the training coordinator for the BCFD Hazmat Team. He can be reached at kwrsfd@gmail.com

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