EPA Seeks Public Input on Plan for Cleanup at Superfund Site in N.J.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed a cleanup plan for contaminated soil, ground water and six waste disposal areas at the American Cyanamid Superfund Site in Bridgewater Township, N.J., located on the Raritan River. 

The soil, ground water and waste disposal areas, called impoundments, are contaminated with volatile organic compounds and other hazardous materials. The ground water underlying the site is highly contaminated with benzene. Area residents are serviced by a public water supply that provides a safe source of drinking water.

The EPA is encouraging the public to comment on the plan through March 31, 2012 and will hold a public meeting on March 8, 2012 at 7:00 PM at the Somerset County Vocational and Technical High School, 14 Vogt Drive, Bridgewater, New Jersey.

"The cleanup plan for the American Cyanamid site is an important milestone in the EPA efforts to protect the health of people who live or work near the facility and water quality in the Raritan River," said EPA Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck. “EPA encourages the public to comment on the proposed plan and to learn more about it at the March 8 public meeting.”

Many volatile organic compounds are known to cause cancer in animals and benzene can cause cancer in people. Some volatile organic compounds have no known health effects. The extent and nature of potential health effects depend on many factors, including the level and length of exposure.

The American Cyanamid Superfund site has a history of industrial pollution dating back to 1915. For nearly 100 years, prior owners used the location for manufacturing chemicals. The site was placed on the federal Superfund list in 1983 after hazardous chemicals were found in the soil and ground water. The 435-acre Superfund site contained various areas used for the disposal of chemical sludge and other waste. In 1998, the EPA deleted 140 acres of the site from the Superfund list after they were evaluated and determined to be acceptable for redevelopment. The TD Bank Ballpark Stadium was subsequently built on a portion of the area. In 2009, Pfizer Inc. assumed responsibility for the American Cyanamid site as part of its purchase of the Wyeth Holding Corporation, a prior owner. 

Because of the nature and complexity of the contamination at the site, the EPA divided the investigation and cleanup into phases. The plan announced today is the first phase of the cleanup. The proposed plan announced today details approaches to address contaminated soil, ground water and six waste disposal areas (Impoundments 3, 4, 5, 13, 17 and 24). Two additional impoundments (Impoundments 1 and 2) are the focus of a separate study to consider the feasibility of options to address them.

The highly toxic material in Impoundments 3, 4, and 5 will be treated at their current locations by introducing a mixing agent into the waste to make it more solid. This treatment method is a proven technology that immobilizes contaminants to prevent their migration. After this step, the waste disposal areas will be covered with a barrier system that traps vapors and prevents contaminated air from escaping into the atmosphere.

The soil at the site will be addressed using three different methods depending on the extent of the pollution in the soil. Soil that consists of tarry material or is highly toxic, similar to the waste within Impoundment 3, 4, and 5, will be excavated and combined with the material in the three impoundments. It will be treated with the existing waste in Impoundments 3, 4 and 5. Soil that contains volatile and semi-volatile organic compounds will be covered with a vapor control barrier and mitigation system to prevent the release of vapors into the air. Soil that has a lower level of pollution will be covered by a 24-inch thick engineered cap that will serve as a barrier that prevents direct contact. Additionally, the EPA will conduct an ecological study of the waste in Impoundments 13, 17 and 24, which are located in the flood plain of the site, to determine the appropriate treatment for these materials.

A currently operating ground water collection system, which has already treated millions of gallons of contaminated ground water at the site, will be improved by relocating the primary extraction wells to a more central location. Several new extraction wells will be added to enhance the efficiency of the ground water collection system. In addition, a recovery system for collecting and treating shallow contaminated ground water from portions of the site will be constructed at several locations. This system will prevent contaminated ground water from seeping into the Raritan River, Cuckhold’s Brook and Middle Brook. The details of these improvements will be developed during the remedial design phase of the cleanup project.

The proposed plan also calls for the placement of controls such as legal restrictions on land use to minimize the potential of future exposure and to ensure that the cleanup measures are not disturbed. Throughout the cleanup, monitoring will be conducted to ensure the effectiveness of the remedy. The EPA will conduct periodic reviews to ensure that the cleanup remains protective of public health and the environment.