Plan Proposed to Clean Up New Jersey Superfund Site

March 08, 2012

The EPA rolled out a proposal for a way to address contamination at a former industrial wastewater lagoon in northern New Jersey

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., according to the EPA’s website.

Under the proposed cleanup plan, approximately 27,000 cu yd of contaminated sediment, soil and debris from the area in and around the previous wastewater lagoon and adjacent stream channels would be excavated, dewatered and taken off site for disposal. A tide gate would be installed at Murray Hill Parkway and the lagoon and water would be taken out of the channels to allow for excavations "in the dry," down to the natural clay layer that is present throughout most of the site. Fill material would be added to provide cover and allow vegetation to grow to provide habitat for wildlife.

The EPA added the Universal Oil Products site in East Rutherford, N.J., to the Superfund National Priorities List on Sept. 1, 1983, because hazardous chemicals were found in the soil, surface water and groundwater. The 75-acre Superfund site contained a facility that manufactured various chemicals and recovered solvents. During its operation, Universal Oil Products dumped approximately 4.5 million gal of waste solvents and solid waste chemicals into two unlined lagoons, contaminating the site. Groundwater on site is contaminated with volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are potentially harmful pollutants that can easily evaporate into the air. The soil is contaminated with hazardous materials including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and lead. Approximately 36,500 people within three miles of the site depend on groundwater for their source of drinking water. Local industries also use the ground water for industrial processes. People who come into direct contact with or accidentally ingest contaminated soil, sediments, ground water or surface water may suffer health effects. Ackerman’s Creek passes through the site, and Berry’s Creek borders the southeastern part of the site, running downstream three miles to join the Hackensack River. Local residents use the area’s surface water for recreation.

The EPA and New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) oversaw the removal of liquids, sludge and sediments from the site’s surface. EPA and NJDEP also monitored a study of the nature and extent of contamination of site soils and groundwater. Cleanup of the contaminated soil and a portion of the groundwater were completed. Lead-contaminated soil was excavated and placed under the on-site cap. Highly contaminated soil was removed and transported to a hazardous waste landfill. Groundwater was cleaned by an on-site treatment system. The initial investigation of the wetland and creek areas is complete.

The cleanup of the Uplands area has been completed. In 2005, Honeywell began a long-term, comprehensive study of the nature and extent of contamination in the Streamlands area of the site. Sampling of the Streamlands area 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 potential to move into other areas. Honeywell signed a legal agreement with EPA to address the contamination in the vicinity of the lagoons. 

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