$36.8M N.J. Superfund Site Cleanup Approved

$36.8M N.J. Superfund Site Cleanup Approved

Source: The Record, Hackensack, NJ, July 23, 2012
Posted on: http://newyork.construction.com

Most of the contaminated groundwater at the Maywood Chemical Co. Superfund site will be left untreated to naturally break down over the course of centuries as part of a $36.8 million cleanup plan chosen this month by federal officials.

The project by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will remove the source of the groundwater pollution — about 25,000 cubic yards of soil and pond sludge laced with lithium, benzene and arsenic — from the 11.7-acre site off West Hunter Avenue.

But even after removal, the water could take up to 280 years to reach cleanup levels, according to a federal report issued this month.

“When you look at other sites around the country that have done this, you see the concentrations drop,” said Jim Moore, an corps project manager for the site. “This is the most logical and beneficial approach.”

The corps, in conjunction with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, decided against extracting the contaminated water and treating it at the surface because it could draw in contamination from off-site. It would also cost $122 million.

Federal officials don’t consider the contaminated water a public health threat because it does not come in contact with drinking water and there has been no evidence of it leaking or vaporizing into homes, Moore said.

The groundwater plan is part of a massive cleanup effort at one of North Jersey’s oldest and largest toxic sites. Radioactive waste and other pollution dates back almost a century on 88 parcels of land near Route 17 in Maywood, Lodi and Rochelle Park. From more than 40 years, the Maywood Chemical Co. processed radioactive thorium on the property and disposed of it on site in burial pits.

Enough contaminated soil to fill 14,000 dump trucks has already been excavated over the past three decades, including more than 44,000 cubic yards removed from seven locations since 2009 when the site received $54 million in federal stimulus funds.

Under the groundwater plan for the site, which is now owned by the government, arsenic in water close to the surface would be treated and would be reduced to safe standards in less than a year.

But arsenic that lies deeper in the bedrock would be allowed breakdown naturally in “less than 180 years” according to the 105-page report called a record of decision that was signed July 5. Lithium is expected to reach cleanup levels in 280 years.

Maywood Mayor Gregg Padovano did not return phone calls seeking comment about the plan.

The project will cost taxpayers $36.8 million. Groundwater would be sampled annually.

Sludge is already being scooped out of the area, but no timetable has been set for the soil removal and other work. “You can’t spend 50 or 60 year impacting a property and then expect it to be done in a few years,” Moore said.

It was the second most expensive cleanup alternative of four that were considered. A $122 million plan would have extracted and treated groundwater, but it could also pull in contaminated groundwater from the nearby Dixo Co., a Rochelle Park packaging business. A plume of chlorinated solvents from Dixo is located up-gradient from the Superfund site, and could potentially come into the Maywood Chemical site through pumping, Moore said.

Exposure to lower levels of arsenic can cause decreased production of red and white blood cells, abnormal heart rhythm and damage to blood vessels. Long-term exposure to benzene can result in anemia. It can also cause excessive bleeding and harm the immune system.

The removal of contaminated soil from the site over the last several years will allow for the construction of a new railcar loading platform this year.

The soil removal is also part of a plan to realign Route 17 as it passes through Maywood and Rochelle Park. The realignment would cross the western edge of the government-owned property.

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