Meadville Tribune

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October 10, 2007

Unidentified chemicals perplex EPA

Old New Castle plant site of Super Fund clean-up

NEW CASTLE, Pa. — Nevada has Area 51.

But it may have nothing on Building 9.

Sure, what goes on at the Air Force base traditionally linked to UFO cover-ups has long been one of the government’s biggest secrets.

Its tales of mystery and intrigue, though, are more than mirrored by a 100-year-old, wooden-roofed behemoth at the south end of a former industrial plant in West Pittsburg.

The 45-acre site once was the home of Remacor, which processed magnesium waste into a desulfurization agent used by the steel industry. A 2005 fire, though, destroyed the plant’s processing equipment, and stockpiles of flammable magnesium continued to grow until last year, when a court order barred Remacor from accepting additional shipments.

After the company failed to meet a state Department of Environmental Protection directive to address risks presented by what the agency said was improperly stored material, another court order allowed the DEP and the federal Environmental Protection Agency to begin a cleanup in March of this year.

Prime among the agencies’ concerns, of course, were bags and barrels of magnesium that estimates now put at more than 5 million pounds.

Still, other materials – some of which officials have yet to identify – also lurk on the cleanup schedule.

And a lot of them are in Building 9.

 

NAME THAT WASTE

“Building 9 has a lot of drums that go back to what we call the mischmetal days,” said Jack L. Downie, an on-scene coordinator for the EPA’s Region Three. “That’s when they worked with rare earth elements, and they made the element materials from ores.

“There’s a lot of – well, I shouldn’t really say unknowns, but there are a lot of not-well-defined containers in Building 9, which of course, has a wood roof and would be very flammable if something got going.”

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