Old pesticide plant in Vineland, N.J., re-contaminated local rivers
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed modifications to its plan to clean up contaminated, exposed sediments in the Maurice River and Blackwater Branch at the Vineland Chemical Co. Inc. 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. EPA performed dredging, excavation and disposal of arsenic-contaminated sediments at the site according to its original cleanup plan. EPA proposes to modify the plan by adding treatment technologies to address areas in the Blackwater Branch that became re-contaminated with arsenic since those activities were completed.
EPA will hold a public meeting Aug. 8, 2016, to explain the proposed plan and hear from the public. The meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. at Vineland Town Hall, City Council Chambers, 640 E. Wood St. Comments will be accepted until Aug. 22, 2016.
EPA does not believe the site impacted the city’s drinking water. EPA monitors the drinking water supply regularly to ensure the drinking water meets drinking water standards.
“The Vineland Chemical Co. contaminated this site with arsenic from its production of pesticides,” said EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck. “After decades of work by the EPA, a significant amount of the toxics have been removed. The EPA’s expanded work in Vineland will protect people’s health and the environment.”
The Vineland Chemical Co. Inc. site is centrally 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, the soil, groundwater, and nearby Blackwater Branch, Maurice River, and Union Lake have been contaminated by arsenic from the site.
EPA has addressed the cleanup of the Vineland site in two stages: an immediate action and four, long-term cleanup phases focusing on controlling the source of the contamination, reducing the spread of the contamination, and cleaning up the marsh, river and lake sediments.
In 1992 and 1993, EPA fenced off the contaminated areas, removed hazardous chemicals stored on the site and boarded up abandoned buildings. By 2004, EPA demolished all abandoned buildings on the site. To address the arsenic-contaminated soil, EPA constructed a soil washing facility. To address contaminated groundwater, EPA constructed a system to pump out and treat approximately 2 million gpd of contaminated groundwater. To address contaminated sediments in the Blackwater Branch and Maurice River, EPA excavated and treated sediments in the soil washing facility. After backfilling the area with clean soil, the stream channel and floodplain were restored. EPA continues to monitor the Maurice River. To cleanup Union Lake, EPA plans to lower the water level, excavate and treat contaminated materials, then return the cleaned material to the lake.
To address the contaminated groundwater, in 1989, EPA constructed a groundwater pump and treat system to prevent the arsenic contaminated groundwater from spreading into the Blackwater Branch. After the excavation and restoration of the Blackwater Branch’s sediment was completed in 2012, EPA found that even with the pump and treat system in place, the exposed sediment and soil of the Blackwater Branch floodplain became re-contaminated with high levels of arsenic.
In order to address the exposed sediment and soil of the Blackwater Branch, EPA is proposing to amend the cleanup by treating the arsenic in the groundwater in order to prevent recontamination of the exposed sediment. For instance, EPA can 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 will be selected after EPA further studies the conditions in localized areas to gauge the effectiveness.
EPA may require excavation of “hot spots” to remove remaining contaminated exposed sediment or soil in the Blackwater Branch floodplain. Throughout the cleanup, EPA will monitor, test and conduct further studies to ensure the effectiveness of the remedy and protection of the environment. The cleanup under this plan is estimated to cost $15 million.
The Superfund program operates on the principle that polluters, rather than taxpayers, should fund the cleanups. EPA searches for parties legally responsible for the contamination at sites that are placed on the Superfund list and seeks to hold those parties accountable for the costs of investigations and cleanups. Potentially responsible parties have funded remedial work at the Vineland site. Other work has been federally funded with taxpayer dollars.
Written comments may be sent to:
Hunter Young, Remedial Project Manager
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
290 Broadway, 18th Floor
New York, NY 10007
To view the proposed cleanup plan, visit: www.epa.gov/superfund/vineland-chemical.