Officials Explore Asbestos Clean-Up at Historic Valley Forge in Pa.

October 3, 2006

Valley Forge National Historical Park officials are exploring ways to clean up asbestos from beneath the ground where George Washington and his troops camped and trained during the winter of 1777-1778.

The chemicals, discovered by workers laying fiber-optic cables in 1997, likely came from a factory that manufactured asbestos products for years before shutting down in the late 1970s.

The site covers more than 100 acres of what was known as the grand parade ground, where daily training and drilling took place and where the French Alliance was signed in 1778, said Barbara Pollarine, deputy park superintendent.

The park service is exploring several options, but is pushing an alternative that would involve excavating 11/2 to 3 feet in the affected areas, removing contaminants and adding fresh soil.

Park officials, who are working with the state, are also exploring ideas such as capping the affected area with a layer of new soil; injecting material into the soil that would solidify the contaminants underground; and a complete excavation of the affected area and other parts of the park, an expensive option that could cost $350 million.

The contaminated area is currently fenced off, but will eventually reopen to the public no matter what option is chosen, Pollarine said. Under the preferred option, that would likely happen within three to four years of the start of the project.

The source of the contamination goes back to the late 19th century when a private company started manufacturing asbestos-insulated products. The plant routinely pumped waste through pipelines and into limestone quarries nearby until it closed in the late 1970s; Congress established the park in 1976.

Officials have not determined exactly how the cost of the cleanup will be distributed between the state and the park service. The estimated cost of the preferred alternative is $11.1 million.

“It will be a shared responsibility,” Pollarine said Monday.

A public comment period on the proposals runs through Oct. 23 and a hearing will be held at the park’s welcome center on Thursday night.

On the Net:

Valley Forge cleanup proposals: documentID=16844

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