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Friday, July 27, 2012

EPA to Hold Public Meeting on Plan for the White Chemical Corporation Superfund site in Newark, New Jersey

Environmental Protection Agency Seal
Environmental Protection Agency Seal (Photo credit: DonkeyHotey)

      The State of New Jersey has an immense  toxic legacy that has plagued Workers' Compensation system with an epidemic volume of claims for decades. The State was home of 20% of the asbestos industry in the United States, and over 50% of the petrochemical facilities. 
      New Jersey geographically situated as a transportation hub, with its close proximity to harbors and access to rail and land transportation, continues to struggle with toxic substances still remaining in the geographical area.
      The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is proposing a plan to clean up contaminated ground water beneath the White Chemical Corporation Superfund site in Newark, New Jersey. The ground water was contaminated with volatile organic compounds by past industrial activities at the site. Volatile organic compounds can cause serious damage to people’s health and the environment. The proposed plan calls for the injection of chemicals into the ground water that will break down the contamination. The ground water will be monitored and its use will be restricted. The EPA will hold a public meeting on August 2, 2012 to explain the proposed plan and is encouraging public comments. The meeting will be held at 7:00 p.m. at the Newark City Hall Council Chambers, 920 Broad Street, Newark. Comments will be accepted until August 21, 2012.
      The former White Chemical Corporation site, which covers 4.4 acres, is located at 660 Frelinghuysen Avenue in Newark, and is surrounded by many residential, commercial and industrial properties. Beginning in the 1930s, portions of the site were used by multiple businesses for industrial activities including the manufacture of acid chlorides and fire retardants. The White Chemical Corporation operated a chemical manufacturing facility at the site from 1983 to 1990 and was cited by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection for multiple environmental violations before the company abandoned the facility. Thousands of drums were left behind, with many of them leaking hazardous chemicals. The site was added to the federal Superfund list of the country’s most hazardous waste sites in 1991. 

      Because of the nature and complexity of the contamination at the site, the investigations and cleanups have been divided into three phases. The proposed plan announced today is for the third phase of the long-term cleanup. 

      The first phase of the work alleviated immediate threats to the surrounding community. The work was complex and dangerous and included removing drums of potentially explosive chemicals, addressing leaking chemicals throughout the site and decontaminating some buildings. In all, the EPA supervised the removal of about 9,000 drums, 12,500 chemical containers, 50,000 gallons of liquid contained in process tanks and addressed many other hazards at the facility. Some of the hazardous materials were treated on-site to neutralize the contamination. Others were removed for re-use or disposed of at off-site facilities with permits to receive them. 

      Under phase two of the cleanup, the EPA focused on ongoing sources of harmful vapors that could impact the surrounding area, including contaminated buildings and soil and abandoned storage tanks. In this phase, the EPA excavated and removed 23,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil from the site, demolished nine buildings and removed an above ground storage tank. The EPA then placed clean soil over the contaminated areas and placed a stone cover over the entire property to prevent erosion. 

      The third phase and final phase of the cleanup announced today addresses the contaminated ground water. After extensive study, the EPA has concluded that it is not technically feasible to pump out and treat the contaminated ground water because of the complex rock formations underlying the site. The depth, nature and variety of the rock formations would present extreme technical challenges. 

      Instead, the proposed plan calls for bioremediation, the injection of chemicals into the ground water to promote the breakdown of the pollutants. The specific process to be used to inject the chemical additive will be determined by the EPA as part of the design of the cleanup. Once the process has begun, the EPA will collect samples to confirm that the bioremediation is effective. The EPA is proposing to install additional monitoring wells to monitor the ground water and to put into place restrictions that will prevent its use as a source of drinking water in the future. 

      The EPA is requiring periodic collection and analysis of ground water samples to verify that the level and extent of contaminants are declining and that people’s health and the environment are protected. 

      To date, the EPA has spent about $20 million on the cleanup of the White Chemical site. The estimated cost of the proposed final phase of the cleanup is $25 million. 

      Written comments may be mailed or emailed to: 
      Ray Klimcsak, Remedial Project Manager
      U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – Region 2
      290 Broadway - 19th Floor
      New York, N.Y. 10007-1866
      (212) 637-3916

      For more information on the White Chemical Superfund site, please visit: