New York, N.Y. -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has modified its plan to address contaminated groundwater at the Shieldalloy Metallurgical Corp. site in Newfield and Vineland, N.J. A plan originally put into place in 1996 by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection when it was mainly responsible for the site, required a system that pumps the groundwater out of the ground and treats it. The modified EPA plan instead calls for using non-hazardous additives to treat the groundwater and break down the contaminants and then allow the contaminants to naturally decline while monitoring them.
Groundwater at the site is contaminated with hexavalent chromium and volatile organic compounds from ore and metal processing that took place at the site from 1955 to 2006. Exposure to hexavalent chromium and volatile organic compounds can damage health including nervous system damage and an increased potential of developing cancer. The groundwater at this site doesn’t present a direct threat because wells in the area are not used for drinking water since residents have been connected to a clean municipal water source.
The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s 1996 groundwater cleanup plan included enhancing an existing system of pumps to bring the polluted groundwater to the surface where it could be cleaned. After years of successful operation of the pump and treat system, concentrations of contaminants began to level off rather than continue to decrease at an acceptable rate. In an effort to help the groundwater concentrations continue to decrease at an acceptable rate, the EPA oversaw a study using certain additives to reduce contamination levels. Data collected in recent years indicate that natural processes are effectively reducing the levels of some contaminants and that treatment of the groundwater by adding non-hazardous additives to the groundwater effectively reduces levels of others. The EPA has concluded that a system to pump the groundwater to the surface to be treated is not as effective as it used to be, that the non-hazardous additives are more effective, and that the pump system is no longer necessary.
The EPA held a public meeting in Newfield, N.J. on August 12, 2015 and took public comment for 30 days and considered public input before finalizing the decision.
The proposal modifies the plan that relied on a pump and treat system to treat the groundwater. The EPA is proposing the modification after an in depth study, conducted from 2010 to 2014, which looked at the effectiveness of applying non-hazardous additives to the groundwater to promote the breakdown of contaminants. In addition, data collected since the original cleanup plan was selected indicates that natural processes are viable for reducing the levels of contaminants. The EPA is requiring monitoring of the groundwater to verify that the level and extent of contaminants are declining and that people’s health and the environment are protected. The EPA will conduct reviews at a minimum of every five years to ensure the effectiveness of the cleanup, until the cleanup is finished.
The Superfund program operates on the principle that polluters should pay for the cleanups, rather than passing the costs to taxpayers. The EPA searches for parties legally responsible for the contamination at sites and it holds those parties accountable for the costs of cleanups. The cleanup of the Shieldalloy site is being conducted and paid for by the owner of the site, Shieldalloy Metallurgical Corporation with oversight by the EPA.
To view the EPA’s web site for the Shieldalloy Metallurgical Corp. site, please visit: http://www.epa.gov/region02/superfund/npl/shieldalloy
The record of decision will be available at: http://semspub.epa.gov/src/document/02/372863