A "No Trespassing" sign leading to the former site of Metal Bank in Philadelphia is attached to a chain-link fence.
The site of Metal Bank in Philadelphia along the shores of the Delaware River. The company ran a salvage yard that over time released PCBs and other contaminants, according to federal officials. PHOTO BY MEG McGUIRE

Hazardous-waste polluters on the Delaware River will fund more than $1.3M in environmental restoration work
The federal government reached settlements with a Philadelphia salvage yard and a former DuPont landfill in Wilmington that released PCBs and other harmful substances

| February 20, 2023

Settlements with two former hazardous waste sites along the Delaware River — one in Philadelphia and one in Wilmington – will underwrite more than $1.3 million in environmental restoration projects, according to federal officials.

The Philadelphia site was owned from 1962 to 1985 by Metal Bank of America, which operated a salvage yard adjacent to the Delaware in an industrial area off Milnor Street.

The facility recycled scrap metal and electrical transformers from various utility companies, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which is overseeing the cleanup.

“Oil containing PCBs and other contaminants was released into the environment during the salvage process, and also leaked from an underground storage tank,” NOAA said in a statement.

In 1983, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency designated the Metal Bank property a Superfund site.

From 2008-10, crews led by the EPA excavated contaminated soils and river sediments, capped river sediments, installed a retaining wall near the river and removed an oil storage tank, NOAA said.

A gold-colored cat in the foreground of a driveway and a chain-link fence in the background. Debris and a garbage are piled to the side.
A friendly stray cat roamed among the debris and junk outside the closed entrance to the former Metal Bank company site in Philadelphia. PHOTO BY MEG McGUIRE

In 2012, the upland area was replanted with native vegetation. And in 2013, the EPA confirmed that cleanup efforts had reduced the threat to the river environment and enhanced recovery of habitat.

The agency is continuing to monitor contaminant levels and habitat recovery at the site. 

Many species, including clams, birds, fish and endangered Atlantic and Shortnose sturgeons, were exposed to harmful concentrations of PCBs, NOAA said.

A settlement to resolve liability for damage to natural resources stemming from hazardous waste pollution at the Metal Bank Superfund site was finalized in 2021.

The settlement calls for payment of $950,000, which includes $535,193 to pay for projects that will help restore natural resources harmed by pollution. The balance will partially reimburse the costs of assessing the damage done.

“Achieving cleanup and restoration of valuable Delaware River habitat in this urban area is necessary for the recovery of natural resources, endangered species, and the ongoing revitalization of local communities,” said Peter Knight, NOAA’s regional resource coordinator.

Public input is being sought to identify habitat restoration and recreational use projects within the Delaware River and the general Philadelphia area.

Submissions must fall into the identified categories that seek to remedy harmed caused by the hazardous waste release. Input can be sent to rich.takas@noaa.gov. The deadline is March 15, 2023.

Delaware site being cleaned up

In an unrelated hazardous waste cleanup along the river, a settlement was proposed in December to resolve claims related to the hazardous waste pollution from the du Pont de Nemours site on the Delaware River in Wilmington, Del., according to NOAA.

Of the more than $1 million settlement, $808,500 is proposed for restoration activities and $263,255.84 will be allocated for reimbursement of damage assessment costs. (A public comment period on the settlement closed last month.)

Beginning in 1935, E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company (DuPont) owned and operated a titanium dioxide manufacturing facility, known as the Edge Moor Plant.

DuPont later acquired and operated a nearby landfill along Hay Road, which in the late 1990s was used to stockpile byproducts from its nearby titanium dioxide facility.

These byproducts contained heavy metals, PCBs and other hazardous materials, according to NOAA.

Releases of hazardous substances from the site have potentially injured various natural resources, including bottom-dwelling creatures and fish, the agency said. Fish consumption advisories are in effect in the area because of elevated levels of PCBs and other contaminants.

Role of NOAA

What is NOAA, an agency more closely linked in the public’s mind with weather-forecasting, doing with Super Fund cleanup sites?

As NOAA explains on its website: It serves as a steward, or “trustee,” for the nation’s coastal and marine resources.

“We act on behalf of the public to protect and restore natural resources harmed by oil spills, releases of hazardous waste, and, in some instances, vessel groundings,” it said.

The agency’s Damage Assessment, Remediation and Restoration Program, known as DARRP, works with governmental entities, the public and often industry to clean up environmental damage.

The agency said it has recovered more than $10 billion for restoration from those responsible for environmental harm.

Chris Mele

Chris Mele

Chris Mele is a reporter and editor with more than 30 years of experience in news, specializing in investigative and enterprise reporting.

Leave a Comment