You know, I was feeling a sympathy pang when I recently considered the plight of businesses that are truly unaware of their environmental responsibilities and abandon property because they are overwhelmed. Today's news changed all that.

Abrachem Group, which used to operate a bulk chemical repackaging and storage facility at 2 Peekay Drive, in Clifton, N.J., has reportedly moved on to other locations. EPA announced yesterday that the work of containing leaking drums, identifying chemicals, and properly returning them to their original owners or otherwise disposing of the mess Abrachem Chemical left behind is done. It took about seven months at a reported cost of about $800,000. The agency hired Earth Tech to help stabilize the site as well as stage supplies and air monitoring equipment.

The agency said the facility stored more than 1,600 drums containing hazardous materials; among those were naphthalene, perchloroethylene, sodamide, hydrazine hydrate, peroxide, nitric acid, and toluidine diisocyanate. At its Web site, www.abrachem.com Abrachem claims that it provides regulatory compliance management. Really?

There is some documentation showing that the head of the company, Tilghman B. Frey, had a plan for cleaning up the drums last October. According to EPA's site history, Abrachem retained the services of a remediation company, and contractor personnel were advised to lay poly sheeting and begin removing and overpacking the leaking and unknown drums that were readily accessible. Work began almost immediately but was stopped because of poor lighting and an inability to physically get the majority of the drums through the narrow doorway. The EPA issued a Field Expedient Notice, and Abrachem said it would initiate a removal action, but these efforts proved "inadequate" and everything seemed to go downhill from this point on. What happened?

EPA On-Scene Coordinator Paul Kahn characterized the site as "borderline criminal" in a local television interview in February; right after the agency had to get a warrant to initiate a response action at the site. That action later included calling the Passaic County Bomb Squad because when a hazmat specialist opened a crystal-covered inner poly drum, an acetylene odor was apparent and grayish white smoke fumed into the air and triggered the low oxygen alarm. Ultimately, EPA subcontracted with Clean Harbors, a high hazard remediation company out of Baltimore, to take care of it.

So now I'm waiting to hear about some enforcement action. At the very least, shouldn't Abrachem pay for the cleanup? I believe U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-N.J.) thinks so. What do you think? Am I missing something here?

Posted by L.K. Williams, EPonline on Sep 15, 2009

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