EPA ID# WAD053614988
EPA Region 10
Clark County

3rd Congressional District

Other Names: FHC
Last Update: May, 2010

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The Frontier Hard Chrome (FHC) site is located in the southwestern part of the State of Washington, in the city of Vancouver. The site is approximately one-half mile north of the Columbia River and covers about one-half acre. Chrome plating operations occurred at the FHC site for about 25 years between 1958 and 1982. FHC, which operated at the site between 1970 to 1982, discharged process waste-waters containing hexavalent chromium directly to an on-site dry well.

In 1982, Ecology determined that FHC was violating Washington State Dangerous Waste Regulations for disposal of hazardous waste. At that time, chromium concentrations greater than twice the state groundwater cleanup standard of 50 ug/L were detected in groundwater samples from an industrial well located at the FMC site approximately 0.5 miles southwest of the site. FHC went out of business shortly after Ecology identified the violation. In December 1982, the site was proposed for inclusion on the National Priorities List (NPL) under CERCLA. The site was added to the NPL in September 1983.

Releases from FHC operations contaminated groundwater with reported chromium concentrations as high as 300,000 ug/L. At the time the contamination was first detected, a groundwater plume exceeding Washington State groundwater cleanup standards (50 ug/L) extended approximately 1600 feet southwest from the facility. The July 1988 Record of Decision (ROD) for the groundwater operable unit called for extraction of groundwater from the area of greatest contamination (levels of chromium in excess of 50,000 ug/L) via extraction wells, and treatment of extracted groundwater. Groundwater monitoring after initial discovery showed that the plume receded. Monitoring in 2000 indicated that the plume exceeding state groundwater cleanup standards extends about 1000 feet south of the site. The change in overall plume size, and the shift in groundwater flow from the site in a southwesterly direction to a more southerly direction was largely due to the discontinued pumping of three large industrial supply wells located at the FMC facility. With the influence of these wells eliminated, the plume conformed to natural groundwater flow. While monitoring indicated that the plume was receding, it also showed that concentrations beneath the FHC site remained consistently high over time.

Surface soil concentrations of hexavalent chromium near the FHC building were detected as high as 42 mg/kg. Subsurface concentrations for total and hexavalent chromium were noted as high as 31,800 mg/kg and 7,506 mg/kg respectively. Contaminated subsurface soils extended beneath the building on the neighboring property. The December 1987 ROD for the soils/source control operable unit called for removal, stabilization and replacement of 7400 cubic yards of soil - or all soils with concentrations greater than 550 mg/kg total chromium. This number was based on a site specific leachate test for protection of groundwater.

Evaluation of these proposed remedies by EPA after the RODs were issued revealed the soils remedy to be ineffective. Groundwater monitoring conducted after the ROD was issued indicated that the contaminated groundwater plume was decreasing in size as down-gradient industrial supply wells located at FMC were taken off line. As the immediate threat of further down-gradient migration of the plume appeared to be in decline, and as local government controls were in place preventing installation of new wells in the aquifer, EPA also began to reevaluate the need for pump and treat as the most appropriate solution for groundwater cleanup.

In October 1994, the Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology) conducted an interim removal action of chromium contaminated soil on the property adjacent to and east of the FHC site. Approximately 160 cubic yards were removed and disposed of allowing for redevelopment of the property. EPA continued to monitor groundwater and soils, and evaluate new, innovative cleanup technologies to address the persistently high concentrations in soils and groundwater. In May 2000, EPA finalized a Focused Feasibility Study (FS) which identified and evaluated several new and innovative technologies for addressing the problems at the site. EPA also conducted a treatability study of one new technology evaluated in the Focused FS: ISRM, or In-situ Redox Manipulation.

In August 2001, EPA finalized a ROD Amendment identifying in-situ treatment of soils and groundwater as the selected remedy. The selected remedy combined the use of two innovative in-situ treatment applications for the remediation of site soils and groundwater: In Situ Redox Manipulation (ISRM) for treatment and containment of hot spot groundwater; and auger/injection of reducing agents for the treatment of source area soils and hot spot groundwater.

EPA initiated Remedial Design of the selected remedy in October 2001. Actual cleanup began at the end of 2002. EPA demolished two vacant buildings that were located over the contaminant "hot spot." Then, EPA injected a reducing agent underground around the most concentrated contamination, forming a sort of underground fence to keep contamination from spreading. Any hexavalent chromium passing through this fence changes to non-toxic trivalent chromium. Within days of injection, the once highly-contaminated groundwater showed no detectable levels of hexavalent chromium. Over 180,000 gallons of water were treated in this way. Soils throughout the treatment zone also show no detectable levels of hexavalent chromium. Cleanup was completed in September 2003. We are currently monitoring groundwater concentrations to determine whether chromium concentrations will rebound at the site. Redevelopment of areas above the historic plume has already occurred. Plans for redeveloping the source area have been developed.

Site Responsibility: This site is being addressed through state actions.

NPL Listing HistoryDates
Proposed Date:12/30/1982
Removed Date:
Withdrawal Date:
Final Date:09/08/1983
Deleted Date:

Hide details for Threats and ContaminantsThreats and Contaminants

Media Affected: Groundwater, Soils
Chromium is the hazardous substance of primary concern at the FHC site. While volatile organic compounds (VOCs), including tetrachloroethene (PCE) and trichloroethene (TCE) were detected in groundwater at the site, concentrations were extremely low and not directly linked to past activities at FHC. Chromium was found to be present in two forms, designated trivalent chromium and hexavalent chromium. Of the two, hexavalent chromium is the more hazardous. EPA classifies hexavalent chromium as a Group A carcinogen (evidence of human carcinogenicity) when inhaled. Both groundwater and soils were contaminated with high concentrations of hexavalent chromium. Exposure through ingestion of or direct contact with chromium-contaminated groundwater or soils may pose health risks.

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PHONE NUMBER:206-553-1813
Information pertaining to this site is housed at the following location(s):
Washington Department of Ecology (Administrative Records)
Toxic Cleanup Reference Center
Woodland Square, 4415
Woodview Drive Southeast
Lacey, WA 98504

The Vancouver Public Library (Administrative Records)
1007 E Mill Plain Blvd
Vancouver, WA 98663-3504

EPA Region 10 Superfund Records Center (Administrative Records)
1200 Sixth Avenue, ECL-076
Seattle, WA 98101