Environmental meeting on October 21 to talk carcinogen cleanup

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed a plan to clean up a nine mile stretch of Bound Brook as the final phase of the cleanup of the Cornell-Dubilier Electronics Superfund site in South Plainfield, New Jersey.

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. Bound Brook passes next to the former Cornell-Dubilier Electronics facility and was contaminated with PCBs as a result of waste disposal at the facility, including releases that continued long after its closure.

PCBs are chemicals that persist in the environment and can affect the immune, reproductive, nervous and endocrine systems and are potentially cancer-causing. Polychlorinated biphenyls had been widely used in hundreds of industrial and commercial applications until they were banned in 1979. More than 1.5 billion pounds of polychlorinated biphenyls were manufactured in the United States before the EPA banned their use with very narrow exceptions.

“PCBs are suspected carcinogens and within and near the Bound Brook they are present at levels that pose an unacceptable risk to people’s health,” said EPA Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck. “This comprehensive cleanup will reduce risks to the community from the toxic legacy of the Cornell Dubilier Superfund site.”

The proposed plan includes dredging PCB-contaminated sediment, excavating soil from the flood plains, excavating an area next to the former Cornell-Dubilier facility where PCB-containing capacitors were buried, relocating a 36-inch waterline that crosses the former facility, and containing groundwater that discharges from the facility to Bound Brook.

South Plainfield is supplied with public water from a couple of companies. The public water supply is routinely tested to ensure compliance with federal and state drinking water standards.

The EPA will hold a public meeting on October 21, 2014 to explain the proposed plan and is encouraging public comments. The meeting will be held at 7:00 p.m. at the South Plainfield Senior Center, 90 Maple Avenue, South Plainfield, NJ. Comments will be accepted until November 14, 2014.

Prior to issuing its plan, the EPA conducted an in-depth investigation of the extent of the contamination in order to determine how best to clean it up over the long term including a study of nine miles of Bound Brook. Sampling of sediment, soil in the flood plain and groundwater was conducted.

Specifically, the plan calls for dredging an estimated 134,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment mainly located between Bound Brook’s river mile 6.55 and New Market Pond. Dredged areas will then be restored. The plan also proposes excavating an estimated 150,000 cubic yards of contaminated floodplain soil located downstream of the former facility property. Areas that are disturbed will be restored. As part of the excavation work, EPA proposes to temporarily divert portions of Bound Brook around active work areas.

In addition, the plan includes excavating an area next to the former Cornell-Dubilier facility where buried PCB-contaminated capacitors are located. All capacitor waste will be excavated and disposed of out of the area at a disposal facility licensed to receive the waste. Finally, the plan addresses the area of the groundwater deferred from the third phase. EPA is proposing a system to contain contaminated groundwater that discharges from the former Cornell-Dubilier facility and keep it from getting into the Bound Brook. The EPA will conduct a review every five years to ensure the effectiveness of the cleanup.

To date, the EPA’s cleanup costs for this site exceed $180 million. The estimated cost of the cleanup under this plan is $252 million. The EPA has recovered some of its costs from parties responsible for the contamination and will continue those efforts.

Because of the nature and complexity of the contamination at the Cornell-Dubilier site, the EPA divided the cleanup into four phases.

In the first phase of cleanup, the EPA cleaned up nearby residential, commercial and municipal properties. PCB-contaminated soil was removed from 34 residential properties near the former facility property.

In the second phase, EPA cleaned up the contaminated buildings and soil on the former facility. The EPA demolished 18 contaminated buildings and removed 26,400 tons of building debris out of the area to be disposed of properly. EPA excavated approximately 21,000 tons of contaminated debris and soil from an undeveloped area of the facility. Additionally, EPA treated contaminated soil at the 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 out of the area for disposal at a licensed facility.

The third phase is ongoing and focuses on the contaminated groundwater. EPA is monitoring the groundwater and will put in place restrictions that will prevent the use of untreated groundwater as drinking water. In addition, EPA will perform periodic sampling to confirm that potentially harmful vapors from the contaminated groundwater are not seeping into nearby buildings. EPA deferred action on an area of the groundwater that discharges to Bound Brook until the fourth phase of the long-term cleanup project.

The fourth and final phase of the cleanup is the subject of the plan proposed today.

The Superfund program operates on the principle that polluters should pay for the cleanups, rather than passing the costs to taxpayers. The EPA searches for parties legally responsible for the contamination at sites that are placed on the Superfund list and it seeks to hold those parties accountable for the costs of investigations and cleanups.

Written comments may be mailed or emailed to:
Mark Austin, Remedial Project Manager
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – Region 2
290 Broadway
New York, N.Y. 10007-1866
(212) 637-3954
austin.mark@epa.gov

To review the plan for the Cornell-Dubilier Electronics Superfund site, please visit: http://www.epa.gov/region2/superfund/npl/cornell


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