Epa: Asbestos At Valley Forge Site No Danger A Firm Using Asbestos Once Operated In The Area. Contaminated Soil Has Been Exposed Due To Erosion.

Posted: May 28, 1997

VALLEY FORGE — Soil contaminated by asbestos has been uncovered at about 40 spots in a 15-acre section of Valley Forge National Historical Park, but officials at the federal Environmental Protection Agency say there is no hazard to the public.

``There's no immediate health risk,'' said the EPA's Fran Burns, who has been at the site. ``I'm confident it's stabilized and under control.''

This week and next, workers are bringing soil to the sites and will put seed down to increase the ground cover, Burns said.

The sites are around the park's amphitheater, a little-used area about a quarter mile from the visitors center. About 80 tons of contaminated soil were discovered on the unpaved parking lot there in January by a contractor laying fiber-optic cable between park buildings. Further testing led to the finding of more asbestos.

The area is fenced off and warning signs are posted. Every other day the ground is sprayed with water to keep the dust down.

``This will be a remediation that, for the most part, will take care of the concerns out there,'' Burns said. ``But the park is going to have to look at the situation once everything has been stabilized and determine what they'll do for the long term.''

The biggest hassle now, Burns said, is with deer, who have been crashing through the bright orange fencing.

The asbestos is believed to be left over from the 1930s, when Keene Corp., which made products with asbestos, operated on the site. The plant was next to a quarry where waste products were dumped. The quarry was filled in, but more than half a century of soil erosion led to the asbestos exposure this year.

``We're fairly confident it's confined to that area,'' Burns said. ``The places we're finding it are in line with where the plant used to be and where the quarry used to be.

``If the situation were left unchecked, and you continued to have erosion, over time there would be more exposed asbestos. There'd be a chance it would become airborne, and that presents the largest hazard. At the present time, the actual public exposure is not a problem.''

Asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral that is noncombustible and resistant to corrosion, has been used for commercial purposes in this country since the 1880s. Concern that airborne fibers from asbestos could cause cancer and other diseases led to a manufacturing ban in 1989. That was overturned in court after protests from asbestos makers. Today, some asbestos products - wallboard, for instance - continue to be made.

The Park Service purchased the contaminated site in the mid-1970s, soon after the park was established. The plant's facilities were still standing, but officials were unaware that asbestos remained in the ground.

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