Sunday, November 11, 2012

Did Hurricane Sandy's impact NY & NJ Superfund sites?

The Wall Street Journal reported today that, of the 198 federal Superfund sites in New York and New Jersey, 45 are within a half-mile of coastal areas vulnerable to storm surge.   
The Environmental Protection Agency, which oversees cleanup of those sites, was unable to say how many of them flooded on the night of Oct. 29. But the agency said its initial appraisals show that several "were impacted by the storm," including a site contaminated by lead near Sayreville, N.J., and the Gowanus Canal and Newtown Creek sites in New York City.  
The EPA said it tested water samples its workers took from Brooklyn's Gowanus Canal and nearby flooded buildings, but found only "low levels" of potentially cancer-causing pollutants, which it said may be "related to spilled fuel and runoff from asphalt." New York state officials say they think the floodwaters probably traveled over the Gowanus and Brooklyn's other Superfund site, Newtown Creek, without disturbing the pollutants that line the bottoms of both waterways. 
In New Jersey, one site may have been affected by the storm: the Raritan Bay Slag Superfund Site in Sayreville. A seawall and jetty along the bay's southern shore were contaminated with lead slag, a byproduct of metal smelting, which has tainted the surrounding area with lead and other heavy metals. On a flyover to survey damage, a U.S. Coast Guard member spotted an overturned 10,000-gallon fuel tank near the sea wall, but it didn't appear to harm it. 
The EPA said it is collecting samples from the site "to determine the extent of flooding damage and its impacts on lead contamination." 

Fuel spills at several regional refineries also a concern

Sandy caused a  surge of water to rush over a Motiva terminal in Sewaren, N.J., dislodging fuel tanks and spilling 378,000 gallons of ultra low sulfur diesel fuel into the Arthur Kill. Crews operated vacuum trucks, skimmers and deployed boom to contain the spill, most of which had evaporated, according to NJDEP spokesperson Larry Ragonese said.
Floodwaters at a Kinder Morgan Terminal in Carteret, N.J., sent an empty tank crashing into one filled with biodiesel, causing a spill into nearby Rum Creek, eventually flowing into the Arthur Kill, an industrial waterway. Kinder Morgan says the spill was contained within a day.
According to the Journal, 
The storm also inundated numerous water treatment facilities in New York and New Jersey that were left to pump untreated sewage into area waterways. Some were still without power more than a week after the storm and were having trouble getting up to full speed again. As of mid-week some of the facilities were still pumping water that had been only minimally treated.
Related environmental news stories:
Hurricane Sandy Response Efforts
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers - Hurricane Sandy
NY Harbor oil terminals, refineries crippled by Sandy
Northeast cleans up from Superstorm Sandy, death toll rises

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