$23 Million to be spent on protecting drinking water
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a legal agreement with SL Industries Inc. and SL Surface Technologies Inc. to perform soil cleanup and reimburse EPA’s past costs at the Puchack Well Field Superfund site in Pennsauken Township, N.J. The soil to be cleaned up is contaminated with hexavalent chromium and is contributing to the pollution of groundwater at the site. Hexavalent chromium may cause cancer and can have other serious health impacts. Six public drinking water supply wells near the site, which served part of Camden, N.J., had to be taken out of use due to contamination. Area residents are connected to safe sources of drinking water from other municipal water supplies.
“Clean drinking water is a top priority for the EPA. By reducing the amount of chromium in the soil, the EPA is protecting people’s health by keeping the contaminated soil from further polluting the groundwater,” said EPA Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck. “This agreement allows the remediation of the Puchack Well Field Superfund site with the cost paid by polluters, not taxpayers.”
In September 2011, EPA issued its final plan addressing the chromium-contaminated groundwater. It is treating the groundwater using lactate, a nonhazardous additive that will reduce the contamination.
The second phase of the cleanup, which is the subject of the legal agreement, will require the cleanup of the contaminated soil that is contributing to the hexavalent chromium groundwater contamination. With EPA oversight, contractors working for the two companies will mix the soil with a nontoxic material that will convert the highly toxic hexavalent form of chromium into the less toxic form, called trivalent chromium. This approach will reduce the levels of hexavalent chromium in the soil to prevent recontamination of the groundwater. EPA will oversee a study to determine the type and quantity of the chemical agent to be used. After treatment, soil samples will be analyzed to confirm that it was effective. Additionally, the groundwater will be monitored to ensure that the soil is no longer a source of contamination. The cleanup work required in the agreement will cost approximately $23 million. It also requires SL Industries Inc. and SL Surface Technologies Inc. to reimburse more than $10.7 million of EPA’s past costs.
Groundwater contamination was first detected at a limited number of wells at the Puchack Well Field in the 1970s. Subsequent testing in the early 1980s found contamination in additional wells. By 1984, the well field was no longer used as a source of drinking water. EPA added the Puchack Well Field to the federal Superfund list in 1998. Superfund is the federal cleanup program established by Congress in 1980 to investigate and clean up the country’s most hazardous sites. Under the program, EPA seeks to get those responsible for contamination at a site to pay or perform the cleanup.