Superfund Information Systems: Site Profile

Superfund Site:


Cleanup Activities

On this page:

On related pages:


The Fairmont Coke Works Site is located in Fairmont, Marion County, West Virginia. The Site consists of approximately 97 acres. Approximately 64 acres of the site were used for coke plant operations, waste treatment, and waste disposal. The remaining 33 acres consists of a wooded hillside which descends to the Monongahela River at the southern portion of the Site. A church is located approximately 50 feet to the south of the southeast boundary of the Site. The eastern portion of the site is adjacent to a trucking company, a propane company and several private residences. The Big John's Salvage Superfund site is adjacent to the western boundary of the Site. Former site operations included manufacturing coke and refining coal tar by-products that have contaminated soil and groundwater. These by-products included: phenol, ammonium sulfate, benzene, coal tar, toluene, xylene, and coke oven gas. Investigations and cleanup activities are ongoing.

Top of Page

What Has Been Done to Clean Up the Site?

  • During August and September of 1990, the owner of the Site removed 11,000 tons of waste tar from the on-site sludge impoundments and disposed of it at an off-site facility.
  • At the request of the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP), EPA completed an emergency removal action between May 1993 and August 1996.
  • During the removal activities, EPA identified several sources of contamination, including from the North and South Landfills, Oxidation Ponds #1 and #2, the Redeposited and the Upper Sludge Ponds, the Breeze Washout Area, and the Light Oils Storage Area. Additional sources included the Breeze Pile, the Main Tar Pit, and the Coke and Coal Storage Areas.
  • EPA successfully removed 976 tons of coke works sludges; 112,514 gallons of tank liquids; 1,280 cubic yards of process solid wastes; 23 lab packs; 168 cubic yards of asbestos-containing material; 60 pounds of pourable mercury; 221,955 gallons of wastewater; and 34,382 tons of oxidation pond sludges. All wastes were properly disposed off-site.
  • Other actions EPA took during the emergency removal included:  
    • Installing extensive storm water controls throughout the Site
    • Stabilizing acidic tar sludges from both on-site oxidation ponds
    • Removing 11,850 cubic yards of acidic breeze material from the breeze washout area (which included portions of some residential yards)
    • Stockpiling 50,000 cubic yards of material from the North Landfill next to the west end of the landfill, allowing clean storm water to discharge from the Site
    • Covering the North Landfill with a temporary soil cap
  • On September 17, 1997, ExxonMobil (EM), the potentially responsible party, entered into a Consent Order with EPA, agreeing to conduct a long-term remedial investigation and feasibility study (RI/FS) to identify potential risks to human health and the environment and to determine what additional cleanup actions are appropriate.
  • In November of 1997, EM approached EPA with a proposal to do a Project XL pilot at this Site. Project XL was created by EPA to test the idea that innovative environmental management strategies which allow more flexibility in scheduling and technical approach may result in a faster and more thorough cleanup. In May 1999, EPA approved EM's proposal making this Site the first Superfund site nation-wide to be cleaned up under Project XL.
  • EPA, WVDEP, EM, and the Fairmont Community Liaison Panel signed the Final Project Agreement, which outlined how the project would proceed. On December 11, 1998, EM entered into Consent Order which required them to conduct removal actions as part of the Project XL pilot. The Order suspended the requirements of the RI/FS until after the removal activities were completed.
  • As part of Project XL, EPA approved a phased environmental assessment and cleanup approach which called for excavating the buried wastes in the North and South Landfills (Phase I) and the Process Area (Phase II), respectively, both of which were continuing sources of groundwater contamination. The cleanup strategy deferred a final decision on groundwater cleanup until after buried wastes could be removed and a final RI/FS could be completed.
  • In 2008, EM completed excavation activities in the North Landfill. In December 2010, excavation was completed in the by-products area and the South Landfill. Waste materials from the excavation were processed on-site to produce 493,054 tons of non-hazardous, artificial coal product. The product was burned as a fuel in a power plant, generating more than 527,000 megawatts of electricity - enough to power more than 42,000 typical West Virginian homes for one year. In addition, 238,342 tons of contaminated soil and wastes not suitable for recycling were removed and transported offsite for treatment and/or disposal.
  • Over the course of eight years, approximately 20,000 truck-loads of synthetic fuel and another 10,000 truck-loads of wastes were hauled off the Site. The Final Report documenting completion of removal actions was approved by EPA on September 28, 2011.
  • On September 28, 2011, EPA reactivated the RI/FS Order. Consistent with the Project XL Agreement, EM is conducting a Remedial Investigation and Feasibility Study focusing on contaminated ground water and any other residual contamination that may remain on the Site. Extensive environmental sampling was completed 2012-2016.
  • The final report documenting completion of cleanup activities in several on-site contaminant source areas, including the North and South Landfills and the Former Process Area was approved on September 28, 2011. Contractors for EM successfully excavated waste coal by-products including "coke breeze" from two historic landfills and "recycled" the material by blending it with coal and other materials to produce a non-hazardous artificial coal product. The product was burned as a fuel in an electricity-generating power plant. The waste recycling effort was used to generate over 527,000 megawatts of electricity - enough to power more than 42,000 typical West Virginian homes for one year. Over the course of 8 years approximately 20,000 truck-loads of synthetic fuel and another 10,000 truck-loads of wastes were hauled off the Site.

Top of Page

What Is the Current Site Status?

In December 2017, EPA issued a final cleanup plan for the Site called a Record of Decision.

EPA’s selected remedy, identified in the Proposed Plan as Alternative 5 - Limestone Trench/Permeable Reactive Barrier (LT/PRB), Wetland Remediation, and Institutional Controls (ICs), includes the following components:

  • Constructing a LT/PRB to neutralize acidic conditions and reduce elevated aluminum, iron, manganese and benzene concentrations in groundwater in situ prior to its discharge to the Unnamed Tributary;
  • Applying organic material to two wetlands areas to reduce bioavailability of inorganic contaminants;
  • Long-term groundwater monitoring;  
  • Implementing Institutional Controls to: prevent any interference with the groundwater treatment system, and related equipment; require that habitable buildings constructed within the Vapor Intrusion Protection Area will include vapor control measures; require appropriate protective measures to prevent construction worker exposure to subsurface contaminants during trenching activities.  Such ICs may include, but are not limited to, restrictive covenants, deed notices, and/or local ordinances.  No institutional controls would be required for off-Site properties.
  • Adopting existing Institutional Controls prohibiting residential land use and the extraction of groundwater from the aquifer beneath the Site for use as a potable water source as a component of the preferred alternative.

Residual contamination which reached the Monongahela River during historic operations has commingled with wastes from the adjacent Big John Salvage Superfund Site. Accordingly, waste materials in the river are being addressed jointly by responsible parties from both Sites in accordance with a consent decree entered in U.S. District Court in October 2012.

Top of Page

Emergency Response and Removal

Removal actions, or short-term cleanups, have addressed immediate threats to human health and the environment. The site owner removed 11,000 tons of waste tar from on-site sludge impoundments and disposed of the material off site in 1990. EPA removal actions between 1993 and 1996 included off-site disposal of 976 tons of coke works sludge, 112,514 gallons of tank liquid, 1,280 cubic yards of process solid waste, 23 lab packs, 168 cubic yards of asbestos-containing material, 60 pounds of pourable mercury, 221,955 gallons of wastewater and 34,382 tons of oxidation pond sludge. Installation of stormwater controls, stabilization of on-site oxidation ponds, removal of 11,850 cubic yards of acidic breeze material, stockpiling of 50,000 cubic yards of landfill material, and installation of a temporary soil cap also took place.

Top of Page