EPA Releases Plan To Remove Lead At Raritan Bay Superfund Site

MIDDLESEX COUNTY — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is proposing a plan to clean up lead contamination at the Raritan Bay Slag Superfund Site in Old Bridge and Sayreville.

Lead is a toxic metal that is especially dangerous to children because their growing bodies can absorb more of it than adults. Even at low levels, lead in children can result in I.Q. deficiencies, reading and learning disabilities, reduced attention spans, hyperactivity and other behavioral problems.

The Raritan Bay Slag site consists of three sectors that contain lead slag, a byproduct of metal smelting. This lead slag was used to construct a seawall and a jetty along the southern shore of the Raritan Bay in Old Bridge and Sayreville. The first sector is the Laurence Harbor seawall, adjacent to the Old Bridge Waterfront Park in the Laurence Harbor section of Old Bridge Township. The second sector consists of the western jetty in Sayreville and extends from the Cheesequake Creek Inlet into Raritan Bay. The third sector is Margaret’s Creek and is approximately 50 acres and has elevated lead levels along with areas of slag and battery casings. The EPA proposed plan will address contamination in all three sectors.

The EPA will hold a public meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 17, to explain the proposed plan and is encouraging public comments. The meeting will be held at 7 p.m. at the George Bush Senior Center, 1 Old Bridge Plaza, Old Bridge. Comments will be accepted until Oct. 29.

“This goal of this is to clean up this site so that everyone, especially the children of this community, will be able to safely enjoy the beach,” said EPA Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck. “By reducing the high concentrations of lead present at the site, we will protect people’s health. The EPA encourages the public to attend the Raritan Bay Slag Superfund site meeting on Oct. 17 and share their views on the proposed plan.”

In 2007, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) took soil samples along the southern shoreline of the Raritan Bay adjacent to the Old Bridge Waterfront Park and found high concentrations of lead. As a result of these findings, NJDEP worked closely with Old Bridge officials to notify the public about health concerns stemming from the lead waste material and restricted access through signs and some fencing. After more sampling, done by the EPA, the Raritan Bay Slag site was put on the federal Superfund list in November 2009. The EPA put up public warning notices in the areas of concern, warning of the threat posed by the elevated levels of lead. Additionally, security fencing has been installed to restrict access.

The EPA conducted an in-depth investigation of the contamination to determine how best to clean it up over the long term. In February 2012, the EPA issued the results from its extensive sampling and investigation confirming concentrations of lead and other heavy metals in the three sectors of concern and concluded that exposure to the contaminants poses a risk to people’s health and the environment.

For both the Laurence Harbor seawall and the western jetty areas, contaminated soil, sediment and waste including slag and battery casings will be dug up or dredged and the material will be disposed at facilities licensed to handle hazardous waste. Excavated areas will be restored with clean fill.

Within the Margaret’s Creek sector, the EPA is proposing to remove slag and battery casings, along with areas of contaminated soil associated with these materials. Clean fill will be placed as needed in the excavated areas. Throughout the cleanup, monitoring and testing will be conducted to ensure that public health and the environment are protected.

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. NL Industries has been identified as potentially liable for the cost of cleanup.

Written comments may be mailed or emailed to:

Tanya Mitchell, Remedial Project Manager
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – Region 2
290 Broadway – 19th Floor
New York, N.Y. 10007-1866
(212) 637-4362

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