Superfund Information Systems: Site Profile

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The Spectron, Inc. Site is located on approximately 8 acres near Elkton, Maryland, in a rural residential area. Solvent recycling operations occupied the Site from 1962 to 1988. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) were processed and released from the facility, resulting in contaminated soil, groundwater and seeps along the western bank of Little Elk Creek. The Site was added to the Superfund program's National Priorities List (NPL) on March 31, 1994.

EPA and the Potentially Responsible Party (PRP) Group continue to plan and implement the cleanup at the site. The Little Elk Creek has been addressed; contaminated sediments were excavated and a Stream Isolation/Groundwater Collection and Treatment System operates to keep contaminated groundwater from reaching the stream.

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What Has Been Done to Clean Up the Site?

A papermill operated at the Site until it was destroyed by fire in 1954. Solvent recycling operations operated at the Site from 1962 to 1988, reportedly handling more than 1 million gallons of liquids per year. The solvents included many Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) that are not very soluble, or able to dissolve, in water. The organic substances are classified as either Light Non-Aqueous Phase Liquids (LNAPLs), less dense than water, or Dense Non-Aqueous Phase Liquids (DNAPLs), denser than water. Both LNAPLs and DNAPLs were released into the environment, resulting in contamination to soil and groundwater (overburden and bedrock), as well as DNAPL seeps along the western bank of Little Elk Creek.

The Site was abandoned by the owner in 1988, with more than 500,000 gallons of solvents and other liquids left onsite in tanks and drums. These materials were removed by a Potentially Responsible Party (PRP) Group in late 1989 and 1990, with oversight by EPA.

Approximately 2,000 cubic yards of affected stream sediments were excavated by the PRP Group from Little Elk Creek in 1998. The Group constructed a Stream Isolation/Groundwater Collection and Treatment System (SI/GWTS) in 1999 to intercept VOC-bearing groundwater before it can discharge to the stream.

The Site was divided into two separate areas or Operable Units (OUs). OU-1 consists of Soil and Overburden (shallow) Groundwater and OU-2 consists of Bedrock Groundwater and Office Area Soil.

OU-1:  soil and shallow Groundwater
The OU-1 Record of Decision (PDF) (ROD) was issued in 2004, with an amendment (PDF) in 2012. The remedy includes building demolition, grading of the Plant Area, placement of onsite debris piles under the cap, installation of an asphalt cap (or equivalent), continued operation of the SI/GWTS, in-situ thermal treatment, monitoring to ensure the effectiveness of the remedy, and land and groundwater use restrictions.

The in-situ thermal treatment was started in February 2016 and completed in November 2016 with an estimated 15,700 pounds of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) removed.  

In March 2019, EPA approved a Remedial Design for the asphalt cap component of the selected remedy for the Contaminated Soil and Overburden Groundwater (OU-1) at the Spectron Site.

OU-2: Bedrock Groundwater and Office Area Soils
An Interim ROD (PDF) was issued in 2012. The Bedrock Groundwater Dissolved VOC Plume will be addressed in a future Final Proposed Remedial Action Plan (PRAP) and Final OU-2 ROD.

The interim remedy chosen for OU-2 includes a pre-design investigation, pump and treat in the bedrock groundwater Source Area, Source Area bedrock groundwater monitoring, dissolved bedrock groundwater monitoring, continued operation of the SI/GWTS, residential groundwater well monitoring, excavation of office area soil and placement under OU-1 cap, land and groundwater use restrictions, and vapor intrusion sampling for the Five-Year Review.

Semi-annual residential groundwater well sampling has been ongoing since 1995. Quarterly surface water sampling is ongoing. The office area soil excavation was completed in September 2016 and the soil will be placed under the cap when it is constructed.

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What Is the Current Site Status?

OU-1: soil and shallow Groundwater

In March 2019, EPA approved a Remedial Design for the asphalt cap at the Spectron Site. The asphalt cap is a component of the selected remedy. Thermal treatment of the soil, the main component for the OU-1 remedy, was completed in 2016.

The asphalt cap will be constructed in the former Plant Area to eliminate direct contact with contaminated soil and shallow groundwater, protecting human health and the environment. During construction, there will be some tree and brush removal and a portion of the former Plant Area will be graded. Required maintenance of the cap will be generally limited to the periodic application of crack fillers and/or pavement sealers. A groundwater monitoring well network will remain, although some existing wells will be modified or abandoned.

Consistent with EPA’s Superfund Redevelopment Initiative, the Potentially Responsible Party (PRP) Group is currently evaluating beneficial re-use alternatives for the site, including alternative (solar) energy. The Remedial Design has incorporated elements to promote and enable re-use of the site.

Construction activities are expected to begin in April 2019 and will last approximately 4 months. During construction, nearby residents may notice increased truck traffic and construction noise.




OU-2: Deep groundwater and office area soils
Ongoing activities include the continued operation of the Stream Isolation/Groundwater Collection and Treatment System (SI/GWTS), extraction of Dense Non-Aqueous Phase Liquid (DNAPL), residential groundwater well monitoring, vapor intrusion sampling in support of the five-year review, and surface water monitoring.  Excavation of the office area soil was completed in 2016. The PRP Group is currently implementing the preliminary design investigation components of the interim remedy for OU-2. Once this is complete a final remedy for OU-2 will be issued.

Five-Year Reveiws
EPA conducted the first five-year review of the Site’s remedy in November 2017. These reviews ensure that the remedies put in place protect public health and the environment, and function as intended by Site decision documents. The 2017 Five-Year Review (PDF) concluded that OU1 and OU2 remedies are expected to be protective of human health and the environment upon completion. In the interim, exposure pathways that could result in unacceptable risks are being controlled through the cleanup actions to date. The next five-year review is scheduled for 2022. 

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Activity and Use Limitations

At this site, activity and use limitations that EPA calls institutional controls are in place. Institutional controls play an important role in site remedies because they reduce exposure to contamination by limiting land or resource use. They also guide human behavior. For instance, zoning restrictions prevent land uses – such as residential uses – that are not consistent with the level of cleanup.

For more background, see Institutional Controls.

The PRP is currently working to implement institutional controls at this site.

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Enforcement Information

Federal Register

De Minimus Settlement Information: Alphabetical listing of most of the Potential Responsible Parties (PDF)

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