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Keystone Metals Reduction (Commonwealth of Pennsylvania)

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1.0 Site Identification

Type of Site: Complex Materials
Location: Cheswick, PA
License No.:  
Docket No.:  
License Status: Decon

2.0 Site Status Summary

Keystone Metals Reduction (KMR) facility (site) is located in Cheswick Borough, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. The former KMR facility is being decommissioned by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (Department) pursuant to the Pennsylvania Hazardous Sites Cleanup Act (HSCA).

KMR was a Delaware corporation that purchased the site in 1921 and operated a uranium processing facility on the property. Records indicate that KMR utilized an extraction process on previously 'milled' uranium ore to produce radium. The facility reportedly produced about two grams of radium and ceased operations in the early 1920's. Radium production at this time required about two hundred fifty to five hundred tons of ore for every gram of radium produced.

Within Cheswick Borough, the site is located in an urban area with commercial, light industrial and residential properties nearby. The site itself consists of approximately 3.5 acres of commercial buildings, paved parking area, vegetated areas, and unpaved areas used for materials storage. Private residences are located west, north, and east of the site, as well as several businesses that operate on or near the site. The Allegheny River is located approximately 500 feet south of the site, beyond Freeport Road.

A cursory investigation completed by Department representatives in 2010 detected two locations on the ground surface with elevated radiation levels. Surface soil radiation readings of 35 microroentgens per hour (μR/hr) were found. Along the foundation of the one of the buildings on site, a larger surface soil area exhibited readings up to 140μR/hr. With these documented elevated readings, the Department determined a more detailed characterization was needed. The objective of the site characterization was to determine the nature, extent, and effect to the soil and groundwater from the manufactured reduction of uranium ore for the production of radium.

To achieve the characterization objectives, the characterization was segregated into two separate phases. The initial characterization completed in December 2011 included a gamma walkover survey, downhole gamma survey, gamma soil cores scan survey, and associated soil sampling for laboratory analysis. After evaluation of the data from the initial characterization showed significant contamination, the Department, and the radiological subcontractor agreed that a second phase (Phase II) of the characterization was warranted. The focus of Phase II activities would be two fold; 1) better delineate the identified radiological impacted soils from the initial characterization, and 2) evaluate the potential radiological impact to the shallow overburden aquifer beneath the site.

From both phases of the characterization, a total of 57 soil borings were advanced and nine groundwater monitoring wells were installed. With this extensive data set, it is believed that the characterization of the site has been affectively completed. It was determined that Radium-226 (Ra-226) is the target radionuclide at the site driving the site characterization and possible remediation activities. Uranium is also in question due to the nature of the ore and the process utilized to extract the radium. Several other ancillary radionuclides were detected in soil samples, although they are not considered the drivers for the investigation. Ra-226 is the primary contaminant produced by the activities at the site. The known area impacted by Ra-226 concentrations above the accepted release criteria also encompasses the other radionuclides present.

It is believed that the delineation of Ra-226 impact above the Derived Concentration Guideline Limit (DCGL) 5pCi/g has been reasonably achieved. Currently the Department's contractors have been working on an Analysis of Alternatives for the site. Quarterly groundwater monitoring will continue. Groundwater monitoring will include the shallow and deep monitoring wells on site, the Harmar Township production wells, and a Harmar Township monitoring well. The Harmar Township production wells are approximately 600ft. from the site.

3.0 Major Technical or Regulatory Issues

Two quarters of groundwater monitoring data have been compiled. The third is expected to be completed in September 2013. Gross alpha levels above the drinking water Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) 15pCi/L were detected in wells MW-1 and MW-5 onsite. None of the gross beta levels exceeded the MCL of 50pCi/L. Groundwater monitoring will continue quarterly due to the site's proximity to the Harmar Township production wells.

All soil samples collected for radiological analysis were compared to the USEPA criteria for Ra-226 of 5 pCi/g. A correlation was calculated between the counts per minute rate (cpm) for downhole gamma survey and the analytical soil results in pCi/g to determine Ra-226 concentrations in soil that would exceed the USEPA DCGL of 5 pCi/g. Potential waste estimates and remedial options will be outlined in the Analysis of Alternatives.

Page Last Reviewed/Updated Thursday, February 20, 2014