NEW YORK, N.Y. – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has finalized its plan to address contaminated ground water at the Cornell-Dubilier Electronics Superfund site in South Plainfield to prevent its use as a source of drinking water.
In response to public input, the EPA is changing its proposed plan by deferring action on a portion of the ground water that may be adversely affecting the Bound Brook until further information is collected. The ground water affected by the site became contaminated with volatile organic compounds and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) from past industrial activities. Volatile organic compounds can cause serious damage to people’s health. PCBs are likely cancer causing chemicals and can have serious neurological effects. Under an action announced by the EPA this week, the ground water will be monitored and its use will be restricted.
The EPA held a public meeting on Aug. 7 in South Plainfield to explain its plan. The EPA took public comment for 60 days and considered public input before finalizing the plan.
Cornell-Dubilier Electronics, Inc. manufactured electronics parts at a 26-acre facility at 333 Hamilton Boulevard in South Plainfield from 1936 to 1962. PCBs and solvents were used in the manufacturing process, and the company disposed of PCB-contaminated materials and other hazardous waste at the facility property. The ground water affected by the Cornell-Dubilier Electronics site is contained within a bedrock area known as the Brunswick Formation. The EPA’s studies found an extensive area of over 800 acres affected by Cornell-Dubilier’s disposal practices, extending under Spring Lake to the north and east of the site.
Because of the nature and complexity of the contamination at the site, the EPA divided the investigation and cleanup into four phases. The final plan addresses the third phase of the long-term cleanup.
Under the first phase of cleanup, which is continuing, the EPA has cleaned up nearby residential, commercial and municipal properties. PCB-contaminated soil has been removed from five residential properties near the former facility property, and the EPA is currently cleaning up eight additional properties. This work will be completed before the winter. Investigations are still being performed on several other properties as part of the first phase of the cleanup.
Under phase two, the EPA cleaned up the contaminated buildings and soil at the former facility property. The EPA has demolished 18 contaminated buildings and removed 26,400 tons of building debris off-site to be disposed of properly. The EPA has also excavated approximately 21,000 tons of contaminated debris and soil from an undeveloped area of the facility. Using $30 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds, the EPA continued the second phase of cleanup by treating contaminated soil on-site using a technology that heats the material so that contaminants can be pulled out and captured. Soil that could not be cleaned using this method was taken off-site for disposal at a licensed facility.
The third phase of the long-term cleanup, and the phase that is the subject of the final plan, focuses on the contaminated ground water. The EPA will install additional wells to monitor the ground water and will put in place restrictions that will prevent the use of untreated ground water as drinking water. In addition, the EPA’s plan requires periodic sampling to ensure that potentially harmful vapors from the contaminated ground water do not seep into nearby buildings. Recent indoor air testing inside nearby buildings shows that vapors are not currently getting into structures.
After extensive rock and ground water studies, the EPA concluded that it is not feasible to treat the contaminated site ground water because of the complex rock formations underlying the site. In its proposed plan, the EPA included in this decision a portion of the ground water that may be contaminating the Bound Brook. The EPA is still investigating this possibility. The community and environmental representatives expressed concern about drawing conclusions about this part of the ground water before having information about how it influences contamination in the Bound Brook. In response, the EPA is deferring action on this area of the ground water until completion of these investigations.
In the fourth and final phase of the long-term cleanup, the EPA will focus on the contaminated sediment and surface water of the Bound Brook. As part of this phase, the EPA will also evaluate whether to take action regarding the deferred portion of the ground water that has the potential to affect surface water and sediment in the Bound Brook. A cleanup plan for phase four is expected in 2013.
South Plainfield is supplied with public water from several companies. The public water supply is routinely tested to ensure compliance with federal and state drinking water standards.
After extensive searches, the EPA has found no homeowner wells (that might have been installed before the availability of public water resources) within the affected area. The EPA will continue its efforts to identify homeowner wells that might still exist.
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. To date, the EPA’s cleanup costs for this site exceed $133 million. The EPA has recovered some of its costs from parties responsible for the contamination and will continue those efforts.
To review the plan for the Cornell-Dubilier Electronics Superfund site, visit: http://www.epa.gov/region2/superfund/npl/cornell
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