Pharmaceutical, Energy Companies To Pay Millions For Groundwater Pollution

Merck & Co. Inc. and Motiva Enterprises LLC/Shell Oil Co. will pay New Jersey $2.4 million and $2.2 million respectively as compensation for groundwater pollution at four properties owned by the pharmaceutical company and at several hundred of the energy companies' service stations and terminals in the state, officials announced on Jan. 12.

The state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) also announced separate settlements for 10 other industrial sites where seven companies provided a combined $624,500 and 20 acres of land for aquifer recharge as compensation to the public for both ground- and surface-water pollution.

"With more than 5,200 acres of quality aquifer recharge property and wetlands preserved since 2002 and $35 million garnered for environmental projects, New Jersey's natural resource damage program is leading the nation and creating a legacy of strengthened water resource protection," said DEP Commissioner Bradley M. Campbell. "New Jersey's residents will benefit from these monetary and land settlements through cleaner water resources and more public habitat to enjoy."

Merck agreed to provide $2.38 million, donate 10 acres of land adjacent to the Rahway River and fund a $30,000 restoration project in the Passaic River watershed for contamination found at four of the company's sites.

Motiva and Shell resolved their liability for groundwater contamination at their terminal facilities and about 400 service stations statewide where underground storage tank leaks occurred by providing $2.2 million. In addition, Shell is providing a conservation easement on 51 acres of land along the mouth of the Woodbridge River to address potential sediment and wetland contamination from its Sewaren Terminal.

DEP used a groundwater injury damage formula when negotiating both settlements voluntarily with Merck and Motiva/Shell.

Merck's liability involves contaminated groundwater at four sites statewide. Merck's main site covers 210 acres and is located in Rahway and Linden, Union County where the company develops and produces pharmaceutical products. The facility began operations in 1903. Various units including drum storage areas, tanks, an incinerator, wastewater pretreatment units, and landfills have been used for the management of wastes generated at the facility. The management of wastes at the facility resulted in contamination of soils, groundwater, surface waters, and sediments. Cleanup is underway at this facility to remediate soil and groundwater contamination.

The Merck Range Road site is approximately 21 acres and located in Linden, Union County. Some waste material from Merck's main site was transferred to a two-acre landfill at the Range Road site. DEP approved the final cleanup of this landfill area in 2004 after Merck capped the site and completed groundwater and surface water monitoring.

Merck's site in Hawthorne, Passaic County, the former Calgon/Metasol facility, is comprised of nearly nine acres on the north bank of the Passaic River. Production of both organic and inorganic mercury compounds continued through 1969. Production of non-mercury compounds continued until cessation of operations by Calgon Corp. in 1991. Contamination stems from former mercury stills, areas of disposed battery casings, underground storage tanks, transformers, various process areas, drainage ditch and concrete vaults. Soil remedial and groundwater monitoring is underway.

Merck's Branchburg Farm facility is a research site where fuel oil releases were discovered along rock outcrops above Stony Brook. From 1995 to 2004 Merck operated a recovery system to collect and treat fuel oil released to subsurface. Further investigation is underway to determine if any additional remedial work is required.

The settling parties that paid the $2.22 million for natural resource injuries at the terminals and service station sites include Motiva ($1,768,065), Shell ($397,245), Pennzoil-Quaker State Co. ($22,938) and Jiffy Lube International Inc. (28,550).

DEP has been working with the companies to remediate discharges of various fuel contaminants to groundwater at their sites throughout the state that were impacted by underground storage tank system leaks, some of which resulted in completed cleanups.

The proposed NRD settlements with Merck and Shell/Motiva will appear in the Feb. 6 New Jersey Register and will be subject to a 30-day public comment period.

A breakdown of the settlement amounts and brief descriptions of the other 10 sites are listed below:

Eco Pump, South Plainfield, Middlesex County: $64,000

The Eco Pump site was used to manufacture rotary gear and other pumps for use during liquid transfers. Eco Pump ceased operations at the site in 1983. A leaking, 250-gallon underground storage tank containing waste solvent and on site spills caused groundwater contamination of primarily chlorinated organic compounds. Since 1993, Eagle Industries LLC has operated a treatment system to clean up contaminated groundwater at the Eco Pump site. The system uses air-stripping towers and activated carbon filtration and was upgraded in 1998 to improve treatment efficiency and to enhance the capture of contaminated groundwater.

Ethicon Inc., Bridgewater Township, Somerset County: $390,024

Ethicon Inc., opened in 1955, is a large facility involved with manufacturing surgical needles and sutures. Specific processes included shaping, cleaning and polishing, plating and packaging. Groundwater contamination at the site stems from a spill of tetrachloroethylene.

Kinder Morgan Liquids Terminal, LLC, Cartaret Borough, Middlesex County: $90,000

On Oct. 30, 2004, catastrophic failure of an aboveground storage tank at this terminal facility resulted in the release of approximately 457,714 gallons of 50 percent sodium hydroxide to the environment. An unknown volume of this product was discharged to the Arthur Kill waterway, which separates New Jersey and Staten Island, N.Y. Sodium hydroxide is a strong alkaline compound that locally decreases the acidity of water and substantially increases the pH of the aquatic environment. This discharge resulted in an injury to aquatic organisms, including a variety of finfish and shellfish, and in the closure of a municipal fishing pier.

Northend Industrial Park, Borough of South River, Middlesex County: $108,000

Groundwater contamination at the Northend Industrial Park stems from the site's use as a terra cotta manufacturing plant and for companies involved with trailer storage, wooden pallet repairs, and distribution of automotive parts, furniture and other products. Areas of concern identified at the Northend site were abandoned 55-gallon drums and utility poles, spills of automotive fluids, fill material associated with the terra cotta plant operation and abandoned asphalt piles. Soils contaminated with total petroleum hydrocarbons and volatile organic compounds were excavated and properly disposed off site.

Litton Systems Inc., Passaic City, Passaic County: $54,242

The Litton site was established as a conveyor equipment manufacturing facility in the late 1890s. Bulk handling equipment for the mining industry and a line of polyurethane-molded products were manufactured at the facility until it closed in November 1990. Discharges of hazardous substances occurred at the Litton site during operations. Sampling results showed the presence of petroleum hydrocarbons, volatile organic compounds, base neutral compounds, cadmium and lead in soil and groundwater.

Reichhold Inc., Elizabeth, Union County: $39,997 (includes 20 percent litigation assessment of $6,663)

The 17-acre Reichhold began production of resins and dyes in 1936. Materials that were utilized in manufacturing processes at the site include solvents and organo-metallic compounds. Operations ceased in 1990. The primary contaminants identified in groundwater beneath the site are benzene, ethylbenzene, toluene, and xylene.

Reichhold Inc., Newark, Essex County: $50,234 (includes 20 percent litigation assessment of $8,372)

The 1.5-acre Reichhold site in Newark has been in operation since the early 1900s for the manufacture of chemicals used in the coating and printing industries. Site operations have ceased and all buildings and structures were demolished in 1998 and 1999. Confirmed sources of groundwater contamination at this site include six underground storage tanks in which leaded gas, diesel, fuel oil, and solvents such as xylene, toluene, ethanol and butanol were stored. Several additional on-site areas of concern are suspected to have contributed to soil and groundwater contamination at this site.

Lenox Inc., Groundwater injuries at three sites in Atlantic County

Lenox will deed to state 20 acres of land in Galloway Township that will remain undeveloped to provide aquifer recharge. Lenox also will pay $7,000 in DEP oversight and survey costs.

Remedial actions are underway at Delilah Road Landfill where groundwater now meets all state groundwater quality standards. The deletion process from the National Priorities List for the Mannheim Avenue Superfund site is underway, as groundwater contamination is no longer present. Both of these sites had minimal groundwater contamination in the past and Lenox is not the only responsible party for these two sites. Lenox is providing five acres for natural resource damages at each site. Lenox, a well know manufacturer of fine china, is cleaning up groundwater contamination at its main site in Galloway Township. DEP accepted 10 acres for groundwater contamination found at this site as part of the settlement.

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This article originally appeared in the 01/01/2006 issue of Environmental Protection.

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