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BoRit Asbestos Remediation
BoRit Asbestos Site and Cleanup
Current Activity (Fall 2010)
Remediation work continues on the stream banks while the EPA collects samples for analysis to create a long-term plan.
The EPA recently issued an update on activities (click here to see the update). However many residents and member of the BoRit Community Advisory Group (CAG) continue to raise concerns over the methods used on the site and the potential safety hazards being created by the work crews. According to a letter sent to the EPA in September, "The BoRit CAG is frustrated and concerned about recent intrusive activities on the site and the procedures followed.”
On a related note, the asbestos site on the other side of Butler Pike which was addressed by the EPA in the 1980’s (known as “The White Hills”) was recently inspected by the EPA as part the ongoing monitoring and maintenance. The site was capped in order to contain the piles of ACM (Asbestos Containing Materials), but the inspection report found that several areas of the cap, including portions of the foundational structure, are in need of repair.
For those who are not familiar with this issue, the land behind the Ambler McDonalds, which straddles Ambler, Upper Dublin, and Whitpain, is the largest unremediated Asbestos site in the country. This consists of a large asbestos containing pile, the reservoir, and the former site of Wissahickon Park, a former Whitpain township park.
Asbestos has a long history in Ambler, dating back to the 1800’s. The success of the Asbestos industry created many jobs in the area. Keasbey Mattison and its successors were largely responsible for the economic success of Ambler in the late 1800's and much of the 1900’s.
Unfortunately, there was little understanding of the health risks and no regulation on the dumping of waste products. Asbestos fiber and related products were simply dumped in piles near the facilities.
By the 1980, all production had ceased and the community was left with the remains. These include:
· The White Hills – piles of asbestos material
· The Boiler House – dilapidated building shells, filled with debris and asbestos materials
· The BoRit Site – a dumping ground that contains an unknown amount of waste.
In the 1980’s the EPA studied the White Hills and implemented an impervious cap on the Hills in an attempt to permanently contain the waste materials. The questions have been asked many times: How did they study and address the White Hills but never uncover the waste piles on the BoRit site? Why did they leave the remaining buildings untouched?
In November of 2004, Kane Core purchased property at 6 Maple St. in Ambler, now part of the BoRit asbestos site. The company proposed constructing a 17-story high-rise condominium building at the site. However, the plan drew criticism from the community and was eventually shutdown. But while the development never saw the light of day, it did raise awareness of the asbestos dump on the site. From this, a grassroots local community group was formed, Citizens for a Better Ambler (CBA) http://betterambler.net/ and was instrumental in getting the local, state, and federal governments involved. The EPA began studying the site in 2008 and assigned resources to study the site.
As part of the ongoing involvement with the EPA, the Citizens Advisory Group (CAG) has been meeting monthly, reviewing progress, plans, and fielding questions and concerns to the EPA. Several local municipalities and groups, including WRO, have representation on the CAG, and we encourage all members of the public to attend the monthly CAG meetings: 6:30 - 8:30 pm, the first Wednesday of each month at: Upper Dublin Township Building - Meeting Room - 801 Loch Alsh Avenue, Fort Washington.
In 2009, the site was added to the National Priorities List, making it eligible for federal Superfund cleanup funds. Approximately $8 million was assigned to address the short term issues with asbestos material in the three stream banks running through the site.
The EPA is now in its investigation stage, taking core samples throughout the site to determine the contents and extent of the waste material and develop a permanent remediation plan.
This will be a multi-year project so resident involvement at every step of the way is essential.