Residents and officials of Hereford Township say, while it has been a long time coming, the opening of a treatment plant for contaminated groundwater and soil at the Crossley Farm site has them breathing a sigh of relief.
The 200-acre site, off Huffs Church Road, has been on the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) and state Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) radar since 1983. Hereford officials were told a portion of the farmland, used to dump industrial waste, was contaminated with trichloroethylene (TCE).
TCE, a solvent and ingredient in adhesives, paint and spot removers, has been found in the groundwater, soil and air around the site. The contamination plume extends about 2 ½ miles down Black Head Hill from the farm.
TCE has been identified as a carcinogen which can also cause impaired nervous system and heart function, as well as kidney, liver and lung damage.
EPA addressed the drinking water supply to the surrounding homes back in 2000 by installing carbon filtration units that remove the TCE for 55 residences. One hundred residential wells in the area, including the treated wells, are sampled every two years to determine if more home treatment units are needed.
Levels of TCE have been measured in the groundwater as high as 700,000 micrograms per liter. The drinking water standard for TCE is 5 micrograms per liter.
Additionally, 13 Hereford homes have been identified through EPA testing as having air quality levels of the contaminant that “pose a potential threat to human health.”
Two homes were outfitted in 2000 with mitigation systems and 11 more have plans proposed by the EPA to address TCE in the air, known as vapor intrusion. Many of those homes have had sub-slab depressurization systems installed, similar to those used for radon, where the vapors are collected and diverted away from entering the home via piping.
The mitigation systems will be installed at no cost to residents. Monitoring will continue at those homes for the foreseeable future, officials said.
The treatment plant, located near the top of Black Head Hill, at Dale Road and Dairy Lane at the site, officially opened Tuesday afternoon where the EPA and DEP held an open house and ribbon-cutting ceremony for the public at 2 and 5:30 p.m.
During the open house, residents viewed the 140 x 75-ft. pole barn-style structure which houses extraction piping and wells which will pump groundwater for treatment. Four wells were built and can pump about 450 gallons of water per minute, officials said.
The facility also contains equipment that will remove the contaminant from the groundwater using an air stripping process, as well as carbon filtration, and two wetland galleries to discharge the treated water back to the Perkiomen Creek.
Hereford officials said the agencies estimated it may take 30 years to complete the cleanup.
Hereford Supervisor Keith Masemore said he is very satisfied with the work the agencies have done at the site.
“I was impressed with the quality of the facility and equipment,” he said, noting the facility is low maintenance, is set up to be monitored and run by an off-site operator and has been heavy insulated to virtually eliminate outdoor noise. “I am very happy they are treating the water so our residents have clean water. As I stated in my comments at the ribbon cutting, ‘What is water worth and what does it cost?’
“We as individuals or the township do not have the funds to tackle this enormous problem. Millions of dollars have been spent and more will be to maintain the treatment plant… [We] will always have the contaminant. We can try to clean up the water and have it for future generations. I believe they have the best plan possible and are moving forward.”
Hereford Supervisors’ Chair John Membrino said he, too, is happy to see the cleanup begin.
“I applaud the efforts of Roy Schrock (remedial project manager) and the EPA to mitigate the dangers to our residents from the Superfund site. It has been a long process and there may be some future hurdles to overcome, but I look forward to the plume being contained and to eventually start shrinking.”