Superfund Information Systems: Site Profile

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The 35th Avenue Superfund site is located in a mixed industrial and residential area of Birmingham, Jefferson County, Alabama, within the area historically known as North Birmingham. The site is focused on parcels in the Collegeville, Fairmont and Harriman Park neighborhoods. The 35th Avenue site and surrounding area includes two coke oven plants, asphalt batch plants, pipe manufacturing facilities, steel producing facilities, quarries, coal gas holder and purification system facility, and the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport.  Five Mile Creek flows along the northern portion of the site; Walter Coke, ABC Coke, U.S. Pipe, and Alabama Gas Corporation (Alagasco) facilities are in or near these impacted communities.

In 2011, EPA determined that a time-critical removal action was needed to address potential human health risks in the communities at the site. Elevated levels of benzo(a)pyrene (BaP), lead, and arsenic are present at the site. BaP and arsenic are classified as carcinogens.

EPA believes that fill material potentially containing elevated levels of BaP, lead or arsenic from nearby industrial facilities was brought onto some residential properties for development and to mitigate flooding. It was originally thought that contamination was from air deposition.

EPA proposed the site for listing on the Superfund program’s National Priorities List on September 22, 2014. EPA is leading site cleanup efforts. EPA is negotiating with potentially responsible parties (PRPs) to recover cleanup costs that have been paid through taxpayer funding.


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What Has Been Done to Clean Up the Site?

RCRA Activities
Under an agreement with EPA, Walter Coke sampled several residential properties and schools in the summer of 2009 and again in 2010. Based on the sampling results, EPA removed 52,000 cubic feet of contaminated soil at the Hudson K-8 School in June 2011 and replaced it with clean soil.

Superfund Activities
EPA is cleaning up the site under the Superfund Removal Program. EPA has done residential soil sampling for contaminants of concern at over 1,900 out of about 2,000 properties in the 35th Avenue site. EPA has addressed contamination starting with the properties that pose the greatest threat to human health. Cleanup is being conducted in four phases:

  • Phase 1 addressed the most contaminated residential properties. 
  • Phase 2 addressed residential properties where children and pregnant women live. Phase 2 included the sampling of three schools, including the Hudson K-8 School, and two apartment complexes for low-income residents. 
  • Phase 3 addressed residential properties with elevated carcinogens found in the soil. 
  • Phase 4 is addressing all remaining properties identified for removal activities.

Access for Property Sampling
EPA received about 2,000 access agreements for properties in the 35th Avenue site. To complete comprehensive sampling of the entire area, EPA needed to gain judicial access to sample 501 vacant residential properties and perform necessary cleanup. EPA met with community leaders for their input on the properties that should be prioritized for judicial access. With community leader input, EPA received judicial access to sample 98 priority properties in October 2016 and to sample at an additional 403 properties in February 2018. As of the summer of 2019, EPA has sampled all residential properties with judicial access. Sampling results indicate that about 135 properties have contamination above EPA’s residential cleanup goals.

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What Is the Current Site Status?

To date, EPA has remediated over 440 properties. Phase 4 of the cleanup is currently addressing all remaining properties identified for removal activities. EPA continues to take a priority-based approach and will prioritize additional cleanup actions as additional sampling results are received. Once EPA receives sampling results, informational packets are sent to property owners and tenants. More than 58,000 tons of contaminated soil have been excavated from the three communities and sent to an approved off-site landfill.

As of October 2019, EPA has sampled all residential properties with judicial access. Sampling results indicate that about 135 properties have contamination above EPA’s residential cleanup goals.

EPA is sampling additional residential properties as access is obtained. EPA is currently seeking access to an additional 30 properties.

The table below shows the status of the properties in the 35th Avenue site.

Summary of 35th Avenue Properties
Status Number
Properties sampled 1,940
Properties exceeding Removal Management Levels (RMLs)* About 640
Properties addressed 461
Properties awaiting cleanup About 200
*RMLs are levels of concern or values used by EPA to determine if future removal actions may be needed. A determination that a sample result is higher than an RML by itself does not imply that an adverse health effects will occur.

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Sampling and Monitoring

EPA continues to perform initial sampling as it gains access to remaining properties in the 35th Avenue site. Results of these sampling analyses will determine where cleanup is required. After cleanup, confirmation sampling ensures all necessary contamination has been addressed and that property owners can resume full, unrestricted use of their properties. No long-term monitoring is required.

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Enforcement Information

Enforcing environmental laws is a central part of EPA’s mission to protect human health and the environment. When warranted, EPA will take civil or criminal enforcement action against violators of environmental laws.

EPA issued General Notice Letters to potentially responsible parties (PRPs) who may be liable for response costs. Cost-recovery efforts and negotiations are ongoing.


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