The Publicker site is a former liquor/alcohol distillery bordering the Delaware River, and is located approximately 7 miles upstream from the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge. The site was approximately 37 acres in size and contained the remains of nearly 440 structures, including large tanks, storage drums, product stock, chemical laboratories, reaction vessels, production buildings, warehouses, and power plants.
Publicker Industries, Inc. owned and operated a liquor and industrial alcohol manufacturing plant at the site from 1912 to late 1985. The site was also used as a petroleum product storage facility during the late 1970s and early 1980s. Numerous chemicals were manufactured or stored at the site during plant operations, which ceased in February 1986.
In June 1987, a fire destroyed a portion of the site. After the fire, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) observed numerous spill areas, improper drum storage, a leaking process line, and an oily sheen emanating from the site into the Delaware River. In 1987 and 1988, EPA performed emergency removal and combined removal/remedial actions. The Publicker site was added to the National Priorities List in May 1989, and a Record of Decision (ROD) for the site stabilization was completed in June 1989. Since then, the site has been cleaned up by the EPA and deleted from the National Priorities List in November 2000. Prior to the cleanup, however, many hazardous contaminants were leached into the environment, including: arsenic, chromium, copper, lead, mercury, zinc, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).
Photo of the site before cleanup., Credit: USEPA