Environmental Protection

North Brunswick, N.J., Home Required Emergency Cleanup

Removing a significant threat to public health and safety, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in less than one month has completed the cleanup of improperly stored hazardous materials at a private residence in North Brunswick, N.J., according to a Sept. 11 press release.

EPA removed more than 2,500 jars and other containers of various chemical compounds to prevent a potential chemical release or explosion at the home. Hundreds of different chemical substances such as nitrates, peroxides, acids, oxidizers and radioactive agents were neutralized or disposed of at an off-site licensed facility.

The agency said that the resident, prior to retiring, had a home business making products such as perfumes and pesticides. EPA worked closely with local officials and with the New Jersey State Police bomb squad, which removed several pounds of picric acid, a potentially explosive substance, from the home. Agents said that picric acid becomes dangerous once it crystallizes.

"The chemicals and storage conditions at the home constituted a dangerous witches’ brew and real potential for a release of hazardous substances into the environment," said Alan J. Steinberg, EPA regional administrator. "EPA and local officials took quick and decisive action to protect members of the local community who live in close proximity to the site. The cleanup went smoothly, even though it involved some challenging technical problems, including categorizing hundreds of chemical concoctions and removing and detonating potentially explosive materials."

EPA was notified last month about the site by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection after local police found a mix of acids, corrosives, and other improperly stored hazardous substances. North Brunswick police officers were responding to an unrelated call to the home when they discovered the chemicals. Found in varying states of disrepair and neglect, some of the jars contained ammonium nitrate, crystallized picric acid, red phosphorus, and even radiological agents.

EPA conducted a painstaking identification or categorization of the chemical hazards at the site through sampling and analysis before securing and completing arrangements for transport and the proper off-site disposal of the materials. Samples were taken from the septic system and water faucet to detect if there was any contamination to the septic system or well water. The air was monitored throughout the project.

Throughout the cleanup, the local community was kept informed via flyers, door-to-door outreach, and a public meeting. After a limited evacuation of residents located within a 500-foot radius of the site, the materials deemed potentially explosive were removed and detonated at a remote location by the New Jersey State Police bomb squad.

EPA addressed the site under the federal Superfund removal program and coordinated its cleanup activities with NJDEP, state police, and local law enforcement.

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