EPA finalizes interim plan to address groundwater contamination at New Jersey Superfund site

Oct. 8, 2021
Issue involves radium contamination at Welsbach and General Gas Mantle Superfund site in Camden and Gloucester City.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently has finalized its interim plan to address groundwater contaminated with radium at the Welsbach/General Gas Mantle Superfund site located in Camden and Gloucester City, New Jersey. The interim decision, in the form of a Record of Decision (ROD), calls for allowing natural processes to continue to break down contamination while restricting access to the groundwater and continuing to clean up the soil that is the source of contamination. The groundwater contamination will be monitored to determine that it is decreasing over time, as expected. Following the cleanup of the contamination source, EPA will revisit the site conditions and make a final decision regarding the groundwater.

“EPA has invested more than $350 million in the cleanup of the Welsbach and General Gas Mantle facilities and surrounding properties to ensure that the health of people who live in Camden and Gloucester City are protected,” said Acting Regional Administrator Walter Mugdan. “This Record of Decision moves us one step closer to a complete cleanup. This plan safely and responsibly addresses the impacted groundwater, allowing EPA to continue its work in cleaning up the source of contamination at the former Welsbach facility.”

Cleanup of the site is divided into four phases of work called operable units (OUs), which are discrete phases of the wider cleanup effort. This interim plan addresses the fourth operable unit (OU4), which is groundwater. Under a cleanup plan for operable unit 1 (OU1), EPA is currently addressing radiologically impacted soil in in Gloucester City, New Jersey. The interim decision today will be implemented while the OU1 cleanup of the radiologically contaminated soil is on-going. Once contamination in the soil, which is the source of groundwater contamination, is fully addressed, the interim groundwater cleanup decision will be reevaluated, and EPA will establish a permanent groundwater cleanup plan. EPA reached its decision based on review of site information including the results groundwater sampling collected between 2018 and 2020.

EPA completed the cleanup work for OU2 in 2017, which included decontaminating building surfaces at the Armstrong Building (the last remaining building from Welsbach's gas mantle operations) and disposing of the radiologically contaminated soil and waste in an approved off-site facility. After a thorough review of the data, EPA determined that no cleanup action was needed for OU3, which consists of wetlands, surface water, and sediment since they pose no radiological threat to people or the environment.

EPA will monitor the groundwater and conduct a thorough review of site conditions within five years to ensure the effectiveness of this interim decision, and fully review the groundwater conditions after completion of the soil cleanup, leading to a final remedy decision for the groundwater. The estimated cost of this work is approximately $460,000.

On August 24, 2021, EPA publicly proposed this plan, and held a virtual public meeting on September 8, 2021, to explain the plan and take comments. The Record of Decision released today addresses all comments received and formalizes EPA’s selected cleanup plan.

EPA’s Record of Decision and the agency’s responses to public comments will be available at https://www.epa.gov/superfund/welsbach-ggm

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