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The Sharon Steel Corporation Farrell Works Disposal Area Site is located in the Cities of Hermitage and Farrell, Mercer County, Pennsylvania. The site is a few hundred feet from the Ohio border and is bordered on the east by the Shenango River. The site covers about 330 acres, including 100 acres of wetlands. Waste, from the Sharon Steel Corporation Farrell Works facility nearby, disposed at this site included byproducts from steel manufacturing including basic oxygen furnace sludge and slag and pickle liquor. Disposal activities resulted in contamination of soil, sediment and groundwater with hazardous chemicals. EPA added the site to the Superfund program’s National Priorities List (NPL) in 1998. 

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What Has Been Done to Clean Up the Site?

The former Sharon Steel Plant, located across the Shenango River to the northeast of the site, was founded in 1900 and manufactured a variety of steel products. Throughout the operating history of the plant, waste and byproducts of the manufacturing process were transported on rail cars across the Shenango River (via bridge) and discarded down embankments or piled into large mounds in several areas on the site, adjacent to the Shenango River.

From 1949 to 1981, waste liquids (acids and oils) were poured onto the hot slag wastes that were disposed of at the site. This practice continued until 1981, when Sharon Steel was ordered by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) to stop disposing the waste liquids in this manner. Although the disposal of waste liquids stopped in 1981, Sharon Steel continued to stockpile slag at the site until operations at the plant stopped in 1992. PADEP conducted several inspections of the waste disposal areas in the 1970s and concluded that the contamination from the byproducts from the Sharon Steel Plant was responsible for the depressed biological community along at least 11.5 miles of the Shenango River.

In 1992, Sharon Steel Corporation filed for bankruptcy. A remedial investigation to identify areas of soil and groundwater contamination and assess human health and ecological risks was performed in two phases. Phase 1 took place from 1999 to 2001 and Phase 2 began in 2002. The Final Remedial Investigation Report (PDF) was completed in June 2005.

The site was divided into two areas of contamination, called Operable Units (OUs). OU1 includes the Northern and Southern areas which consist of approximately 300 acres. OU2 includes an asphalt plant and trucking company properties totaling approximately 29 acres in between the northern and southern areas of OU1.  

The Record of Decision (ROD) for OU1 (PDF), the formal document outlining the final cleanup plan, was signed in November 2006.  The remedial action selected in the OU1 ROD includes: grading, consolidating, and capping steel slag and sludge with a biosolids-enhanced cap. In addition, the Shenango River bank will be stabilized, wetlands constructed, erosion controls installed, institutional controls obtained, and long-term monitoring performed to assess remedy effectiveness. 

In December 2013, EPA issued a ROD for an interim remedial action for OU2 (PDF). In June 2015, EPA issued an Explanation of Significant Differences (PDF) that modified the OU2 interim action.

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What Is the Current Site Status?

In September 2012, EPA completed the remedial design for Phase 1 of the northern portion of OU1 located north of Ohio Street. The project will address approximately 47 acres. The slag and waste will be consolidated and a covered with a biosolids-enhanced cap. “Biosolids” are treated (disinfected) sludge from a wastewater treatment plant that will provide a valuable nutrient base for re-establishing site vegetation. The cap will also reduce the movement of metals in the groundwater, minimize runoff into the Shenango River, and prevent dust blowing from the slag. The OU1 remedy also includes stormwater erosion control measures, streambank restoration, and the construction of wetlands. Groundwater and Shenango River water and sediment will be monitored to ensure that the remedies are working.

In 2015, EPA entered into an agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to perform the remedial construction for the northern portion of OU1. The USACE worked with EPA to update the 2012 design and awarded a contract for construction in late July 2018. Preliminary field work was conducted in Fall 2018. Construction of the OU1 North remedy entered its second construction season in summer 2020. It is anticipated that work will continue into 2021 construction season, following a 2020-2021 winter shutdown.

In 2000, EPA entered a Prospective Purchaser Agreement (PPA) with a private company to buy most of the OU1 South property in order to mine the slag for beneficial reuse (e.g., road bed material). Several hundred thousand tons of slag, of the estimated 8 to 12 million tons present, have already been mined for reuse. Once mining operations have been completed (years into the future), EPA will prepare a design for remediation of the southern portion of OU1.

The interim remedial action at OU2 requires that all exposed slag and soil, including berms, be covered with clean material (e.g., compacted aggregate, clean soil, or concrete) to prevent direct contact and wind erosion of slag and soil, and alleviate migration of contaminants to surface water. This interim action, which began in December 2016, was completed in April 2019. The remedial action schedule was designed over multiple years to allow the two businesses located there to operate safely. In May 2020, EPA accepted the potentially responsible party's remedial action completion report and issued a Certification of Completion of the interim remedial action.

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