By Karen Zautyk
A former industrial tract in the Kearny meadows, abandoned since the 1990s and deemed by some environmentalists as one of the most polluted in the state, if not the nation, may finally be destined for a clean-up.
It is, at least, now destined for a study to determine “the nature and extent of the contamination and an evaluation of potential clean-up methods,” the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced.
Last month, the EPA reported it had reached agreement with four companies that will fund the study, which carries an estimated price tag of $750,000.
“The companies [Apogent Transition Corp., Beazer East Inc., Cooper Industries, and Occidental Chemical Corp.] will also pay for the EPA’s costs in overseeing the performance of the study,” the agency reported.
The 25-acre property, known as the Standard Chlorine Chemical site, is sandwiched between the Belleville Pike and the shores of the Hackensack River, where that waterway separates Kearny from Secaucus.
From the early 1900s to the 1990s, a number of firms reportedly used the site for manufacturing or processing various industrial chemicals and products, including naphthalene, lead-acid batteries and drain cleaners, and the packing of dichlorobenzene products.
According to the EPA, the tract is “contaminated with a number of hazardous chemicals including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and dioxin.”
“PCBs are likely cancercausing chemicals and can have serious neurological effects. Exposure to dioxin can also result in serious health effects, including cancer,” the agency said in its press release, which also noted that fish-consumption advisories have been issued for the Hackensack due to river contamination, originating in part from the Standard Chlorine site.
“The soil, ground water and two lagoons were contaminated with dioxin, benzene, naphthalene, PCBs and volatile organic compounds,” the EPA reported. “The site was originally littered with tanks and drums containing hazardous substances including dioxin and asbestos.”
According to reports, in 2003, the tract had been under consideration for designation as a national Superfund site, but the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) pulled it off the candidate list, reportedly because DEP believed it could effect a more efficient cleanup than the feds could.
Work apparently did not progress very far, and in 2007, the EPA asked the DEP to reconsider– and it did. The tract was added to the Superfund list in September of that year.
Since then, “parties responsible for the pollution — with oversight by the NJDEP and the EPA — [have addressed] the immediate risks to public,” the EPA said.
“The dioxin and asbestos have been collected and disposed of at facilities licensed to receive the waste,” the agency reported. “Contaminated buildings on-site were demolished and removed. The two contaminated lagoons were emptied of water, filled with clean material and covered.
“A slurry wall was installed between the site and the Hackensack River to keep contamination from moving into the river. A system of pumps is being used to bring the polluted ground water to the surface where it can be cleaned.”
Under the new agreement, the study and evaluation of potential cleanup technologies will be conducted before the EPA issues a proposed cleanup plan for the remaining work at the site, the agency noted.
“This agreement marks an important step in the cleanup of the Standard Chlorine Chemical site,” said EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck, who added that it “illustrates how the Superfund law works to make polluters, not taxpayers, pay to clean up sites like this one.”
Kearny Mayor Alberto Santos told The Observer that once the site is cleaned, the Town of Kearny, which has title, can use it for redevelopment. To find out more about the Standard Chlorine Superfund site, visit: www.epa.gov/region02/superfund/npl/standardchlorinechemical.