OLD BRIDGE — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has finalized its plan to clean up contaminated ground water at the Evor Phillips Leasing Company Superfund site, a six-acre site in an industrial area of Old Bridge Township.
Past industrial activities contaminated the ground water with volatile organic compounds, which can have serious health effects. The cleanup plan requires that the ground water be treated to break down the contaminants to protect people’s health and the environment. The EPA held a public meeting on June 19 in Old Bridge to explain its plan and considered public input before finalizing it.
Some volatile organic compounds can cause cancer. The extent and nature of potential health effects depend on many factors, including the level and length of exposure to the pollution.
“The chemicals in the ground water at the Evor Phillips Superfund site pose health risks,” said EPA Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck. “Removing and treating them is the best way to protect the health of people who live and work in the area.”
From the early 1970s to 1986, the Evor Phillips site was used for industrial waste treatment and metal recovery operations. Liquid waste was treated on site and two waste disposal areas were used to neutralize acidic and caustic waste water. The site also contained 19 small furnaces for incinerating photographic film and printed circuit boards to recover silver and other precious metals. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection closed down the liquid waste treatment operations in 1975 after the operators failed to comply with state environmental requirements. All operations at the site stopped in 1986 with the shutdown of the metal recovery furnaces.
The Evor Phillips site was listed on the EPA’s Superfund list of the nation’s most hazardous waste sites in 1983. Because of the nature and complexity of the contamination at the site, the cleanup is being conducted in three phases. The first phase, conducted by New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, involved the removal of approximately 40 buried drums and soil contaminated by metals, and the construction of a ground water treatment system to prevent the contaminated ground water from moving off site. In 2002, several companies responsible for the contamination began operating the ground water treatment system, with NJDEP oversight. The companies also demolished office buildings and furnaces, and removed buried drums, contaminated soil and underground storage tanks.
The EPA took the lead in overseeing the cleanup in 2008. The removal of contaminated soil, which will begin this fall, is the second phase of the cleanup. The third phase, which is currently proposed by the EPA, is the long-term treatment of the ground water using a process known as chemical oxidation. Chemical oxidation uses chemicals to destroy pollution in soil and ground water, breaking down the harmful chemicals into water and carbon dioxide. The oxidants are pumped into the ground water at different depths in the polluted area. Each injection is followed by monitoring to evaluate the effectiveness of the treatment. Samples of the ground water will be collected and analyzed to ensure that the technology is effective. The ground water will be monitored for several years after the cleanup goals have been met to demonstrate that the ground water is no longer a source of contamination.
The Superfund program operates on the principle that polluters should pay for the cleanups, rather than passing the costs to taxpayers. After sites are placed on the Superfund list of the most contaminated waste sites, the EPA searches for parties responsible for the contamination and holds them accountable for the costs of investigations and cleanups. The cleanup of the Evor Phillips site is being conducted and paid for by the responsible parties with oversight by the EPA.
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