Thursday, July 30, 2015

EPA proposing a modified cleanup plan for Shieldalloy site

Below is the full text of a news release from Region 2 of the USEPA announcing proposed changes to the current cleanup plan for the Shieldalloy site in Newfield and Vineland, NJ. It also contains information about an August 12 public hearing on the modified plan. 

(New York, N.Y. – July 30, 2015) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed modifications to the plan to address contaminated groundwater at the Shieldalloy Metallurgical Corp. site in Newfield and Vineland, N.J.  A plan originally put into place by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection when it was mainly responsible for the site had required a system that pumps the groundwater out of the ground and treats it. The new EPA plan proposed today instead calls for using non-hazardous additives to treat the groundwater and break down the contaminants and then allow the contaminants to naturally decline while monitoring them.

Groundwater at the site is contaminated with hexavalent chromium and volatile organic compounds from ore and metal processing that took place at the site from 1955 to 2006. Exposure to hexavalent chromium and volatile organic compounds can damage health including nervous system damage and an increased potential of developing certain types of cancer. The groundwater at this site doesn’t present a direct threat because wells in the area are not used for drinking water since residents have been connected to a clean municipal water source.

NJDEP’s 1996 groundwater cleanup plan included enhancing an existing system of pumps to bring the polluted groundwater to the surface where it could be cleaned. The EPA oversaw a study of using certain additives to bring down contamination levels and data collected in recent years indicate that natural processes are effectively reducing the levels of some contaminants and that treatment of the groundwater by adding non-hazardous additives to the groundwater effectively reduces levels of others. The EPA has concluded that a system to pump the groundwater to the surface to be treated is not as effective as using the non-hazardous additives, and that the pump system is no longer necessary.

The EPA will hold a public meeting to explain the proposed plan on August 12, 2015 at 7:00 p.m., at the Newfield Borough Hall, 18 Catawba Avenue, Newfield, N.J. Public comments will be received by the EPA until August 28, 2015.

The proposal modifies the plan that relied on a pump and treat system to treat the groundwater. The EPA is proposing the modification after an in depth study, conducted from 2010 to 2014, which looked at the effectiveness of  applying non-hazardous additives to the groundwater to promote the breakdown of contaminants. This approach is proving effective. In addition, data collected since the original cleanup plan was selected indicates that natural processes are viable for reducing the levels of contaminants.  The EPA is requiring monitoring of the groundwater to verify that the level and extent of contaminants are declining and that people’s health and the environment are protected. The EPA will conduct reviews at a minimum of every five years to ensure the effectiveness of the cleanup, until the cleanup is finished.

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 and it holds those parties accountable for the costs of cleanups.  The cleanup of the Shieldalloy site is being conducted and paid for by the company with oversight by the EPA. 

The site includes a 67-acre area where the Shieldalloy facility was located, as well as the Hudson Branch of the Maurice River. The company discharged industrial wastewater directly into lagoons and surface water. Contaminated areas of the facility, nine waste water lagoons, and storage tanks have been addressed by previous actions. Processing operations have stopped, but the site is still utilized today as office space and for warehousing. The site was listed on the EPA’s Superfund list in 1984. 

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