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EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck and Congressmember Rodney Frelinghuysen Announce System to Treat Contaminated Ground Water at Rockaway Borough, NJ Superfund Site; Tour Six Superfund Sites in Morris and Essex Counties


New York, N.Y. -- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck and Congressional Representative Rodney P. Frelinghuysen today announced the completion of a system to treat contaminated ground water at the Rockaway Borough Wellfield Superfund site in Rockaway Borough, New Jersey. The officials were in Morris and Essex Counties to review and assess progress on Superfund cleanups at six hazardous waste sites. They were joined by State and local officials to highlight the success of the federal Superfund law in protecting the health of people who live and work near contaminated sites, creating jobs and boosting local economies.

Superfund is the federal cleanup program established by Congress in 1980 to investigate and clean up the country’s most hazardous waste sites. The Superfund program operates on the principle that polluters should pay for the cleanups, rather than passing the costs to taxpayers. When sites are placed on the Superfund list, the EPA looks for parties responsible for the pollution and requires them to pay for the cleanups. Cleanups are only funded by taxpayer dollars when those responsible for the pollution cannot be found or are not financially viable.

“Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen and I got a first-hand look at how the ground water treatment system at the Rockaway Borough Wellfield site and other Superfund cleanups are protecting people’s health and the environment,” said EPA Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck. “Cleaning up toxic waste sites in New Jersey not only protects public health and the environment, but in 2011, federal Superfund cleanups created about 2,300 local jobs.

The Rockaway Borough Wellfield Superfund site includes three municipal water supply wells that supply drinking water to 11,000 people. The EPA recently completed work on a ground water treatment system to address perchloroethylene-contaminated ground water in the East Main Street/Wall Street area of the site. Perchloroethylene is a suspected cancer causing industrial solvent that can also cause short-term health effects such as respiratory distress and sore throats.

In 1985, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection investigated the Rockaway Borough site and concluded that contamination found in the municipal water supply was coming from multiple source areas within the borough. EPA initiated a followup investigation to identify the sources of contamination, determine its extent and evaluate potential cleanup methods. These investigations confirmed the perchloroethylene contamination and determined that a facility belonging to Klockner and Kockner was responsible for contaminating the soil with tetrachloroethene, a commonly used industrial solvent that can have serious health impacts, including liver damage and an increased risk of cancer. The EPA subsequently removed the contaminated soil and sent it to a facility certified to treat and dispose of it. The EPA installed a treatment system to clean up the ground water contamination. Work to remove and treat soil contaminated with lead at the Rockaway Borough site will begin later this year.

Volatile organic compounds such as perchloroethylene and tetrachloroethene are a common concern at the sites visited on today’s Superfund tour. Many volatile organic compounds are known to cause cancer in animals and can cause cancer in people. The extent and nature of potential health effects depend on many factors, including the level and length of exposure.

Ground water, which collects underground in the spaces between dirt particles and cracks within rocks, flows underground and may empty into rivers, lakes or streams. Many people in New Jersey rely on ground water as the source of their drinking water. Public water supply systems are routinely tested to ensure compliance with federal and state drinking water standards, but contamination can make underground sources of drinking water unusable. To date, the cleanup has created 181 jobs and cost approximately $30 million.

In addition to Rockaway Borough, the other sites visited on the tour include:

The Radiation Technology, Inc. Superfund site in Rockaway Township is a 263-acre site that was used for testing and developing rocket motors and developing propellants. Ground water at the site is contaminated with volatile organic compounds. EPA is planning to excavate and remove pieces of deteriorated drums that were buried in a waste disposal area at the site to prevent them from further contaminating the surrounding soil with heavy metals. EPA's cleanup of the Radiation Technology site has been conducted in phases to facilitate the long-term restoration of the area. The work is being done by the company responsible for the pollution, Alliant Techsystems, with EPA oversight. During the first phase of the cleanup, the company installed wells to measure and monitor ground water contamination. Nearby residential drinking water wells were also sampled to ensure that drinking water was not affected. To date, the sampling has shown that the drinking water is not contaminated and monitoring of the residential wells continues. The second phase of the cleanup involved the removal and off-site disposal of the deteriorated drums. Continued sampling of residential wells has not found contaminated drinking water. To date, the cleanup has cost $4.3 million.

The Rockaway Township Wells Superfund site, located in Rockaway Township, is a two-square-mile wellfield containing a cluster of three municipal wells within 100 feet of each other that are contaminated with various volatile organic chemicals. A cleanup plan called for the treatment of the contaminated ground water and the replacement of the township’s air stripper, which forces air through polluted ground water to remove harmful chemicals. The air causes the chemicals to change from a liquid to a gas, which is then collected and cleaned. Sampling of several buildings revealed that chemical vapors were impacting the indoor air quality of some buildings on the site. To address these problems, a system was subsequently installed in two buildings to prevent soil vapors from entering them. Two of the public water supply wells have been taken out of service and water from the other is treated to remove the contamination and provide the community a safe source of drinking water.

The Dayco Corp./L.E. Carpenter Company Superfund site is located in the Borough of Wharton. This 14.5-acre property housed buildings, warehouses and the remnants of disposal areas associated with a former vinyl wall covering manufacturing facility. The soil and ground water were contaminated with volatile organic compounds, lead and PCBs. The initial $26 million cleanup included the removal of 16 storage tanks, demolition of the various former manufacturing buildings and excavation of more than 46,000 tons of contaminated soil and liquid industrial waste. Residual volatile organic compound contamination in the ground water and a small area of soil are currently being addressed. All cleanup activities have been funded by the party responsible for the contamination. To date, the cleanup has cost approximately $26 million.

The Dover Municipal Well No. 4 Superfund site is a former public water supply well located in the town of Dover. The ground water is contaminated with volatile organic compounds. The well is not in service, but it is located 1.5 miles away from three municipal wells serving approximately 22,000 people. The EPA demolished a building formerly occupied by a dry cleaner, excavated and disposed of over 2,100 cubic yards of contaminated soil, and treated the remaining contaminated soil and shallow ground water to remove harmful chemicals. The EPA also tested nearby homes built above the contaminated ground water to ensure that vapors were not entering the houses. Soil sampling conducted at the site determined that three houses were situated in very close proximity to the contaminated material and were in such a poor structural condition that they needed to be demolished. The acquisition of these houses and relocation of the tenants was completed in August 2008. Ground water samples taken during the treatment process have demonstrated that the technology is effective. The EPA will continue monitoring to ensure that concentrations of ground water contamination are decreasing. To date, the cleanup has cost approximately $16 million.

The Caldwell Trucking Co. Superfund site is a former sewage hauling site occupying 11 acres in Fairfield. The Caldwell Trucking site consists of properties and ground water contaminated by the disposal of residential, commercial and industrial septic waste. Caldwell Trucking disposed of this waste in unlined lagoons from the early 1950s until 1973. After 1973, Caldwell installed underground storage tanks for the storage of the waste. Other industrial facilities in the area may also have contributed to the ground water contamination. The parties potentially responsible for the cleanup removed the contaminated soil and sludge from the lagoons and installed wells to monitor ground water quality. All contaminated soil has now been removed or no longer poses a risk and impacted wetlands have been restored.

There are about 500 single family homes located in a populated area within one mile of the site. Since 1981, over 300 private wells in the area have been taken out of service due to contamination. The affected residences have been connected to the municipal drinking water supply system. A system of pumps is used to bring the polluted ground water to the surface where it can be cleaned. In addition, testing of about 100 homes showed that in about 18 homes chemical vapors were impacting the indoor air quality. To address the problem, systems were installed in these homes to prevent these vapors from building up to harmful levels. To date, the cleanup has cost approximately $32 million.

At all sites at which ground water is contaminated, the EPA requires periodic collection and analysis of ground water samples to verify that the level and extent of contaminants are declining and that people’s health and the environment are protected. The EPA also conducts reviews every five years to ensure the effectiveness of the cleanups.

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