Superfund Information Systems: Site Profile

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The 258-acre Lackawanna Refuse site is located in an area previously used for deep mining and strip mining in Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania. In 1973, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Resources (PADER) issued a permit to the site owner for the disposal of municipal and commercial waste in three strip-mine cuts, covering about 18 acres. Two of the strip-mine cuts contained commercial and municipal waste, and the third contained buried drums. PADER authorized an addendum for the disposal of sludge in 1978, but suspended the solid waste disposal permit later that year after discovering the unauthorized disposal of industrial and hazardous wastes. These activities contaminated sediment, groundwater and surface water with heavy metals and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Following cleanup, operation and maintenance activities are ongoing. EPA added the site to the National Priorities List (NPL) in 1983 and it was later deleted in 1999.

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What Has Been Done to Clean Up the Site?

In 1983, the owners and operators of the site pleaded guilty to failing to notify the EPA that hazardous substances were disposed at the site.  They paid a fine and agreed to use the proceeds from any sale of the land to help finance cleanup at the site.

The following remedial actions were completed in accordance with EPA's Record of Decision (ROD): removal and disposal of drums, highly contaminated municipal refuse, dried paint and contaminated soil at a hazardous waste landfill; construction of clay caps over remaining contaminated soil, sediment and debris; installation of a surface water drainage diversion; construction of a gas venting system through the clay caps; development of a monitoring plan; and operation and maintenance of the caps. Remedy construction took place between 1987 and 1991.

Subsequent to the placement of the synthetic cover, EPA's sampling showed that the landfill was generating a negligible amount of leachate due to the effectiveness of the synthetic cover in reducing rainfall infiltration to the landfill.

EPA issued an Explanation of Significant Difference (ESD) on September 28, 1993, documenting EPA's decision to eliminate the leachate treatment plant due to insufficient leachate flow. An ESD outlines changes to the original cleanup remedy to protect public health and the environment.

After construction and site studies were completed, the EPA issued a Close-Out Report (COR) in 1999, stating that no further work is necessary at the site.

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What Is the Current Site Status?

EPA has conducted several five-year reviews of the Site’s remedy. These reviews ensure that the remedies put in place protect public health and the environment, and function as intended by Site decision documents. The most recent, 2019 Five-Year Review (PDF), concluded that the remedy continues to be protective of human health and the environment. The next five-year review is scheduled for 2024.

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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.

Institutional controls are in place to restrict groundwater use and excavation of the cap. Additional information about the institutional controls is available in the 2019 Five-Year Review (PDF) (page 8).

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