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EPA now cleaning up hazardous Exide property in Muhlenberg Township as Superfund site

The federal government has taken over the cleanup effort at the former Exide Technologies’ hazardous waste site in Muhlenberg Township as part of the Superfund program following the dissolution of the bankrupt company.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has been involved with the site since 1988, ordering corrective actions to address contaminations. And in 2000 the EPA required Exide to investigate the extent of lead contamination in soil in the community surrounding the facility at 3000 Montrose Ave. and to clean up properties impacted by lead emissions.

Exide has completed some of that work, but not all. The EPA says there still needs to be an investigation into and remediation of soil contamination at Gethsemane Cemetery and along Bernhart Creek.

There is also significant on-site work at the 45-acre Exide property that needs to be completed to address the release of hazardous wastes, the EPA says. That work includes soil excavation and capping, sediment remediation, groundwater monitoring and demolition and decontamination of the smelter.

The EPA issued a statement of basis in May 2020 that outlined a plan to finish the cleanup and monitor the Exide site.

The Exide battery plant in Muhlenberg Township has been named a superfund site after the company went bankrupt and was unable to clean up the site Wednesday, July 20, 2022. (BILL UHRICH - READING EAGLE)
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says there is significant on-site work at the 45-acre former Exide property in Muhlenberg Township that needs to be completed to address the release of hazardous wastes. (BILL UHRICH – READING EAGLE)

However, just before that plan was unveiled to the public, Exide filed for bankruptcy.

When the Georgia-headquartered company filed for bankruptcy, any Exide properties that had any value were sold. Property that did not have any value, like the Exide property, were abandoned.

As a result of the bankruptcy settlement, Exide dissolved in October 2020.

Because of the dissolution of the company, the federal government has withdrawn the statement of basis that laid out what Exide still had to do as part of the cleanup. Instead, work at the site will now be managed under the federal Superfund program.

According to documents from the EPA, the remaining cleanup will cost more than $17 million.

The court created the Exide Environmental Response Trust as part of the company’s bankruptcy settlement, and $500,000 has been set aide in that trust for the Muhlenberg cleanup. Another $2 million for the project was acquired through the forfeiture of a state Department of Environmental Protection bond for the closure of former hazardous waste management units.

The EPA has allocated an additional $15 million for the project and is working at the site.

Officials at the EPA are also evaluating the potential for the site to be included on the Superfund National Priorities List, which would provide long-term monitoring and remediation.

The Exide facility began manufacturing batteries in the 1930s as the Bowers Battery Company. General Battery took over ownership by 1958, followed by Exide in 1980.

Exide ceased battery manufacturing at the site in 2010. Lead recycling operations ended in 2013.

From 2013 to 2020 the facility was used for non-hazardous plastics recycling.

Source: Berkshire mont

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