Proposed Action to Clean New Jersey Superfund Site

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed a plan to clean up contaminated sediment, soil and debris in streams and in an area near lagoons in which industrial wastewater was stored at the Universal Oil Products Superfund site in East Rutherford, N.J. The proposed cleanup plan will eliminate the threat of contaminants spreading off the site through the streams that carry water into Berry’s Creek, located on the eastern border of the site. The EPA is simultaneously overseeing a comprehensive study of the site to determine what other measures may be necessary to address the contamination.

The EPA is encouraging the public to comment on the plan through March 30, 2012 and will hold a public meeting on March 6, 2012 at 6:30 p.m. at the East Rutherford Memorial Library, 143 Boiling Springs Avenue, East Rutherford, N,J.

"This is a heavily contaminated site which includes mercury, PCBs and other pollutants that could potentially spread off the site by streams. EPA is taking action to protect public health and, the environment and wildlife. This is a complex, toxic site. I urge the public to become informed and involved in this important issue," said EPA Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck.

Volatile organic compounds, semi-volatile organic compounds, polychlorinated biphenyls and metals from the former chemical laboratory and recovery facility have contaminated soil, ground water, sediment and surface water. Mercury, PCBs and other chemicals impact Berry’s Creek as they move to and from the site through the tidal action of the creek. Fish and crabs in Berry's Creek and adjacent water bodies are contaminated with chemicals at levels that exceed U.S. Food and Drug Administration guidelines for human consumption.

PCBs can cause cancer in humans, as well as a variety of other adverse health effects on the immune, reproductive, nervous and endocrine systems. Mercury exposure at high levels can harm the brain, heart, kidneys, lungs and immune system of people of all ages. Birds and mammals that eat fish are also affected by mercury and PCBs in contaminated water and sediment, and can be harmful to the health of people who eat them.

Beginning in 1932, Trubeck Laboratories operated an aroma chemicals laboratory and later a solvent recovery operation at the site. Universal Oil Products acquired the property and facilities in 1960. Operations at the facility ended in 1979 and the buildings were demolished in 1980. In 1999, Honeywell acquired the site through a merger.

The Universal Oil Products site is approximately 74 acres, which are divided into uplands and stream areas. The uplands, located in the northwest corner of the site, are man-made lands and municipal trash placed there years ago on top of native soils and peat. Cleanup work there has been completed, including the excavation of contaminated soil. Honeywell is currently conducting a long-term study of the nature and extent of contamination in and around streams under a legal agreement with the EPA. Sampling has shown that contamination in the vicinity of lagoons where wastewater was once stored is substantially higher than the rest of the site and that contamination has the potential to move into other areas.

Under the proposed cleanup plan about 27,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment, soil and debris from the area in and around the previous wastewater lagoon and adjacent stream channels will be excavated, dewatered and taken off site for disposal. A tide gate will be installed at Murray Hill Parkway and water will be taken out of the lagoon and channels to allow for dry excavation down to the natural clay layer that is present throughout most of the site. Soil will be added to provide cover and allow vegetation to grow to provide habitat for wildlife. The estimated cost of this proposed cleanup is $16.4 million. Honeywell has agreed to pay for and perform the cleanup work.

A document, called an Engineering Evaluation/Cost Analysis, which evaluates the various cleanup options considered in developing the proposed cleanup plan is available at the East Rutherford Memorial Library and on the website. The EPA encourages the public to submit comments to the EPA.