In the aftermath of the discovery of toxic waste dumps such as Love Canal and Times Beach in the 1970s (where housing developments where built over these dumps), an environmental program was established to address abandoned hazardous waste sites across the United States. This program, launched in 1980, allows the EPA to clean up these sites and to compel responsible parties to perform cleanups or reimburse the government for EPA-lead cleanups. Superfund cleanups are very complex processes involving much planning, paperwork and collaboration. You can learn about how the Superfund process works here. There currently are 13 sites in Oregon that are on the Superfund National Priority List. One of these sites is the United Chrome Products, Inc. site located in Benton County, Oregon adjacent to the Corvallis Airport.
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From 1956 to 1987, United Chrome Products carried out chrome plating at this 2.5 acre site which was leased from the City of Corvallis. During that time, chromium waste entered the environment from two sources: leaking plating tanks and a dry well into which waste was dumped. The result was deposition of large amounts of hexavalent chromium into the soil, the shallow ground water (called the upper zone) and into the deep aquifer (from which drinking water for the Airport Industrial Park was obtained). High levels of chromium were also found in the sediments and water of adjacent surface drainages including Boonville Slough. The levels of chromium in Boonville Slough were found to exceed Oregon water quality standards. The high levels of chromium posed a health hazard to public health, and in 1984, the EPA placed the site on the National Priorities List of Superfund sites.
United Chrome Products discontinued operations in 1985, and the Superfund cleanup which included removing contaminated soil, re-routing a drainage ditch and installing a groundwater treatment system began in 1987. Between December 1987 and October 2000, more than 32,000 pounds of chromium were extracted from groundwater. Since chromium concentrations as high as 6,000 ppm were found in the soil in some areas of the site (which could potentially leach chromium into the groundwater over time), a process of removing the contaminated soil was begun in September 2000. While the efforts to extract chromium from groundwater decreased the concentration in the upper zone during this period, concentrations of chromium in the aquifer were observed to increase over time. By 2003, significant progress had been made in cleaning up the site. The EPA continues to monitor the site reporting at five year intervals. The most recent report on this site was published in 2003.
EPA United Chrom Products page