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Thursday, October 24, 2013

EPA Obtains Warrant to Address Over 1000 Drums and Containers at New Jersey Facility; Ongoing Investigation Reveals Presence of Hazardous Materials

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has obtained a federal warrant to do the necessary cleanup work at the Superior Barrel & Drum company facility in Elk Township, New Jersey, where more than a thousand unlabeled or improperly labeled drums and other containers have been left in a state of disrepair. Many of the drums are leaking their contents onto the ground and are exposed to wind and rain. The EPA and the NJDEP are currently investigating the drums and containers at the site under a warrant that was previously issued by a federal judge when the facility owner refused to give the EPA access to the facility. The EPA is working with Elk Township, the local fire and police departments and the NJDEP on the investigation and cleanup of the facility.

“This facility contains a large number of barrels that need to be addressed. The EPA intends to do everything necessary to ensure that hazardous materials at the facility do not harm the public,” said Judith A. Enck, EPA Regional Administrator. "The EPA’s top priority is preventing a release, fire or explosion that could endanger the community or pollute the environment.”

On August 29, 2013, the EPA was asked by the NJDEP to evaluate the facility and take appropriate actions to remove any threat posed by substances in the drums and other containers. The EPA is currently evaluating what substances are present in the drums and containers and assessing whether they could cause a chemical release or fire. The site is partially in a federally protected wetland. 

“Conditions at this facility are inexcusable,” New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin said. “The DEP will continue to work with the Environmental Protection Agency on the categorization and safe removal of these materials, as well as soil testing and monitoring to ensure the environment and public health are protected. We will also support any legal or enforcement actions deemed necessary to restore this site and protect the public.”

The EPA began its investigation on August 30, 2013. Field tests indicate that some drums contain hazardous materials, including corrosive and flammable chemicals. The preliminary results of samples sent to the laboratory show the presence of volatile organic compounds such as benzene and other hazardous substances such as lead. Exposure to these pollutants can have serious health effects. Benzene is known to cause cancer and lead is a toxic metal that is especially dangerous to children because their growing bodies can absorb more of it than adults. Lead in children can result in I.Q. deficiencies, reading and learning disabilities, reduced attention spans, hyperactivity and other behavioral problems. 

The EPA is continuing to sample the contents of containers and drums at the site. The first set of final laboratory data is expected in the next few weeks. The EPA has secured the facility by installing fencing, warning signs and round the clock surveillance. 
Once it completes its investigation, the EPA will work with state and local agencies to take appropriate steps to remove the hazardous waste and protect the public. The EPA is monitoring the air near the work areas. The EPA will secure the materials and make arrangements for their transport and proper disposal out of the area. Prior to removal of any of the hazardous materials, the EPA will develop a contingency plan to ensure that the removal of the chemicals is done safely. Fire department and hazardous materials response teams will be consulted and prepared to respond to the site if necessary. Throughout the cleanup, the municipal government and local community will be kept informed.

For photos and information about the EPA’s work at the Superior Barrel & Drum site, visit: