'Toxic legacy' left by NJ pesticides plant comes to an end

Oct. 7, 2016
EPA finalizes $15 million additional cleanup plan at former Vineland, N.J. plant.

NEW YORK, NY, OCTOBER 7, 2016 -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has finalized modifications to its plan to clean up contaminated exposed sediment in the Blackwater Branch floodplain at the Vineland Chemical Company Superfund site in Vineland, N.J. As a result of previous operations by the chemical company at the site, the groundwater, soil and sediment are contaminated with arsenic. Arsenic is known to cause cancer, as well as many other serious health problems. The EPA dredged, excavated and disposed of arsenic-contaminated sediment from the site according to its original cleanup plan. The EPA will modify the cleanup by adding treatment technologies to address areas in the Blackwater Branch floodplain that became re-contaminated with arsenic since those activities were completed.

Drinking water in the area is supplied by a public drinking water provider and is regularly tested to ensure that it meets all state and federal standards.

"The Vineland Chemical Company manufactured arsenic-based herbicides at this property in Vineland and left a toxic legacy," said EPA Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck. "We have come a long way in cleaning up this site, which was seriously contaminated with toxic arsenic that polluted the area."

The Vineland Chemical Company site is located at 1405 North Mill Road in Vineland, N.J. Arsenic-based herbicides were manufactured at a facility located at the 26-acre area from 1949 to 1994. Due to the company's poor handling, storage and disposal of byproduct arsenic salts, soil, groundwater and the nearby Blackwater Branch, Maurice River and Union Lake have been contaminated with arsenic from the site.

The EPA has addressed contamination at the Vineland site in several stages: immediate actions, and four long-term cleanup phases focused on controlling the source of the contamination, addressing or reducing the spread of the groundwater contamination, cleaning up the marsh and river areas, and cleanup of the downstream lake.

Work began on the site in 1992. The EPA first fenced off the contaminated areas, removed hazardous chemicals stored on the site, and demolished all abandoned buildings on the site. To address the arsenic-contaminated soil, the EPA constructed a soil washing facility. To address contaminated groundwater, the EPA constructed a system to pump out and treat approximately two million gallons a day of contaminated groundwater. The pump and treat system was also used to prevent the arsenic contaminated groundwater from spreading into the Blackwater Branch. To address contaminated sediments in the Blackwater Branch and Maurice River, the EPA excavated and treated sediments in the soil washing facility. After backfilling the area with clean soil, the stream channel and floodplain were restored, but the EPA has found that even with the pump and treat system in place, soil and sediment in the Blackwater Branch is becoming re-contaminated with arsenic.

In order to address the exposed sediment and soil of the Blackwater Branch, the EPA is amending the cleanup by treating the arsenic in the groundwater in order to prevent recontamination of the exposed sediment. For instance, the EPA may use a technology called air sparging to reduce the contamination in the groundwater. Oxygen injected into the ground through air sparging reacts with arsenic, making it immobile and insoluble. The specific treatment or treatments will be selected after the EPA further studies the conditions in localized areas to gauge the effectiveness.

The EPA may also require excavation of "hot spots" to remove remaining contaminated exposed sediment or soil in the Blackwater Branch floodplain. Throughout the cleanup, monitoring, testing and further studies will be conducted to ensure the effectiveness of the remedy and protection of the environment. The cleanup under this plan is estimated to cost $15 million.

The EPA will continue to monitor the Maurice River and a plan to cleanup Union Lake will be will be finalized once the upstream sources of contamination have been stopped.

The Superfund program operates on the principle that polluters should pay for the cleanups, rather than passing the costs to taxpayers. The EPA searches for parties legally responsible for the contamination at sites that are placed on the Superfund list and it seeks to hold those parties accountable for the costs of investigations and cleanups. In 1994, the EPA reached a settlement with Vineland Chemical Company and the owners of the site, which paid for a portion of the cleanup. Other cleanup costs have been funded with taxpayer dollars, including through the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The EPA held a public meeting in Vineland on August 8, 2016 to explain its plan. The EPA accepted public comments for 30 days and considered public input before finalizing the plan.

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