The federal government yesterday announced a $24 million cleanup plan to remove contaminated soil and other toxics from a 70-acre Superfund site in South Plainfield, adjacent to the Dismal Swamp, one of the few remaining natural wildlife refuges in the area.
The final cleanup plan announced by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will remove up to 124,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil and debris from the Woodbrook Road Dump, a former waste disposal area in the 1940s and 1950s.
Before it was closed by the state Department of Environmental Protection in 1958, the dump accepted industrial and household waste. After that, partially buried, leaking capacitors—devices used to store energy– were discovered at the site more than three decades later.
The site is heavily wooded and undeveloped, bordered by the Bound Brook and wetlands of the Dismal Swamp.
The current owner of the site, Texas Eastern Terminal Company, removed a number of contaminated capacitors, secured the site with fencing, erected guard rails to prevent off-road vehicles from entering the site, and placed warning signs around the area. The EPA added the Woodbrook Road Dump site to its Superfund list in 2003, after additional investigations revealed soils and sediments contaminated with high levels of various compounds, including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).
The contaminant posing the biggest potential risk to human health is the PCBs, which can affect the immune, reproductive, nervous and endrocrine systems, according to the EPA.
“The EPA plan will advance a comprehensive cleanup of this site, which is in the vicinity of the Dismal Swamp—a natural wildlife refuge and an important wetland,’’ said EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck. “Under the EPA plan, over 100,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil will be removed from the site to protect this natural resource and the environment.’’
As part of the remediation, wetland areas disturbed during the work will be restored, according to the agency. Groundwater at the site is not contaminated with site-related chemicals, the agency said. The EPA will conduct a review within five years to ensure the effectiveness of the cleanup.