Contact Us


2000 News Releases


Old Philadelphia Distillery Now Off Most Hazardous List

Release Date: 11/14/2000
Contact Information: Ruth Wuenschel, (215) 814-5540

Ruth Wuenschel, (215) 814-5540

PHILADELPHIA – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has removed the former Publicker Industries distillery property on the Delaware River from the Superfund National Priorities List of most hazardous toxic waste sites, confirming that the cleanup there was successful.

“Deleting Publicker from our Superfund list indicates how hard EPA is working to meet our goal of faster, more efficient cleanups that fully protect health and the environment,” said Bradley Campbell, administrator of EPA’s mid-Atlantic region. “A site’s deletion from the NPL helps removes the stigma associated with a once-toxic site, and helps kick start productive reuse of the land.”

From 1914 to 1985, liquor and industrial alcohol was distilled on the 40-acre site located along the banks of the Delaware River. When the owners went bankrupt in 1986, tanks, storage drums, chemical laboratories, warehouses, a power plant, and several hundred miles of asbestos-covered equipment were abandoned at the site.

In 1987, a portion of the facility was destroyed in a multi-alarm fire, and several explosions and fires were reported. EPA addressed each one of these incidents with short-term emergency cleanups.

EPA placed the site on the National Priorities List in 1989 after further studies revealed air, soil and groundwater were contaminated with volatile chemicals and heavy metals. EPA also confirmed that highly-reactive lab wastes and abandoned gas cylinders would continue to pose the threat of fire and explosion.

Working with the parties responsible for the site and state environmental officials, EPA conducted an extensive cleanup, demolishing the abandoned structures; removing the asbestos; sealing the ground water wells; removing the liquids and sediments in contaminated electric utilities for treatment and off-site disposal; and cleaning up all other miscellaneous wastes.

In Pennsylvania, the EPA has now deleted 17 sites from the Superfund list; construction completions have been achieved at another 51 sites; and 44 sites are in various other stages of completion. A construction completion means that all the physical construction at a site has been done, such as the installation of a cap, or a pump-and-treat system. Sites are deleted from the Superfund list after one five-year review has been conducted to ensure the cleanup measures are working.

In 1994, Delaware Avenue Enterprises bought the Publicker property under a prospective purchaser agreement, protecting the new owner from liability associated with pre-existing contamination, while enabling redevelopment plans to be integrated into the site’s cleanup activities. All physical cleanup work was completed in 1997. Today, the site is undergoing redevelopment as a shipping terminal in the Port of Philadelphia expansion project.