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Tetrachloroethylene and other volatile organic compounds are polluting groundwater
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a proposed plan to clean up soil at the Ellis Property Superfund site in Evesham Township, N.J., which is contaminated with tetrachloroethylene and other volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are polluting groundwater underlying the site. While the contaminated groundwater is not currently being used as a source of drinking water, it has historically served as a drinking water source and a source of irrigation for nearby farmland. Exposure to tetrachloroethylene can have serious health impacts, including liver damage and increased risk of cancer.
In this proposed second and final phase of the cleanup, EPA will excavate 67,500 cu yd of soil. Clean soil would be used as backfill and contaminated soils would be disposed of at an EPA-approved disposal facility. Although groundwater levels are expected to reach cleanup goals soon after the contaminated soil is removed, the groundwater treatment system will be kept in place for approximately one more year to further reduce contaminants. EPA will conduct quarterly groundwater monitoring for the first year following this cleanup, followed by annual groundwater monitoring for the next nine years.
EPA is requesting public comments on the proposed plan and will hold a public meeting on July 24, 2013, at 6:30 p.m. in the Municipal Courtroom at the Evesham Township Municipal Building. Comments will be accepted until Aug. 9, 2013.
The Ellis property was purchased by Irving Ellis in 1968. Ellis used the site for the reconditioning of storage drums until the late 1970s. These operations are believed to have resulted in spills of solvents and metals, which contaminated soil and groundwater at the site. In 1980, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) discovered numerous corroded and leaking drums. In 1983, DEP removed more than 100 drums and contaminated surface soil from the site. In 1989, EPA disposed of more than 200 additional drums that had been buried in the soil, and added the site to the Superfund list the following year.
In 1992, EPA issued its first cleanup plan for the site. During this cleanup, contaminated soil was removed, and a system to extract and treat contaminated groundwater was constructed. Tests performed in 2006 and 2007 revealed continued tetrachloroethylene contamination in soil below the water table. Despite the ongoing operation of the groundwater treatment system at the site, tetrachloroethylene from the soil continues to contaminate the groundwater.
The Superfund program operates on the principle that polluters should pay for the cleanups, rather than passing the costs to taxpayers. After sites are placed on the Superfund list of the most contaminated waste sites, EPA searches for the parties responsible for the contamination and holds them accountable for the costs of investigations and cleanups. In this instance, EPA was unable to identify a viable party to pay the cleanup costs. The agency estimates the cost of this cleanup will be $13.6 million.