New Jersey is the fourth smallest state by area in the country, and yet, it has the most Superfund sites. That’s a problem when we’re also the most densely populated state (save for Washington, D.C.)
A Superfund site is an area designated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that’s been polluted to a point where the government needs to cut off access to it and flag it for remediation. Decades of leaks, spills and dumps from the state’s industrial mills, plants and factories have led to 114 designated Superfund sites across NJ.
Remediating NJ’s Superfund sites—and they’re not hard to find driving around the Garden State; just keep your eyes peeled—is a tall task that will require upwards of $3 billion and immense political will to accomplish.
Fortunately, President Biden recently signed a bipartisan infrastructure law that pegs $1 billion (with more coming) for Superfund cleanups across the country, including New Jersey. It’s a start.
Said Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-Paterson) in a statement: “New Jersey is home to the highest concentration of Superfund sites in the nation. While our state has many proud achievements, this is not one of them. Fortunately, as a result of our Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, Superfund sites here in New Jersey like the contaminated groundwater site in Garfield, and across America will receive the federal support they need. Clean air, water, and soil are essential to our health. If we fail to preserve our natural resources, our health will suffer as a result.”
Prioritizing the remediation of Superfund sites is not just an environmental issue—because NJ is the most densely populated state, many lower-income communities have to live, drink, breathe and eat near the sites. Remediating the pollution saves and improves people’s lives, but doing so often requires truckloads of money and time—all because companies made careless and/or profit-driven decisions in a time of fewer regulations.
The EPA requires those responsible for the pollution to pay to clean it up, but that’s not always feasible—many companies are defunct, and the ones that are still in business tend to fight tooth and nail to pay the bare minimum. Thus, federal funding is critical to restoring polluted land (…as hard as that pill is to swallow).
For instance, at the Sherwin-Williams paint manufacturing facility in Gibbsboro (which was not pegged for funds in the recent allocation), a current Superfund site, operators directly discharged wastewater and paint sludge into Hilliards Creek for decades in the mid 20th century. Work to clean up lead and arsenic from soil in the area is still being done today, including a recent plan to remediate waterways near the site. The company’s paying $21 million toward the work. (It made $3.4 billion last year, for what it’s worth.)
The seven sites in NJ with new construction projects that will receive funding, however, are:
Diamond Head Oil Refinery in Kearney: Oil reprocessing took place under several companies from 1946 to early 1979. During facility operations, multiple aboveground storage tanks and possibly subsurface pits were used to store oily wastes. These wastes were intermittently discharged directly to adjacent properties to the east, and to the wetland area on the south side of the site, creating an “Oil Lake.”
Former Kil-Tone Company in Vineland: The former Kil-Tone Company manufactured arsenic-based pesticides from the late 1910s to the late 1930s. Elevated concentrations of arsenic and/or lead have been identified in soil on the former facility property itself, at various residential and non-residential properties surrounding the former facility, in sediment and surface water in the Tarkiln Branch of the Maurice River, in soil at properties located within the floodplain of the Tarkiln Branch, and in groundwater.
Garfield Groundwater Contamination in Garfield: In December 1983, a tank at E.C. Electroplating (ECE) failed, releasing an estimated 3,640 gallons of chromium plating solution (chromic acid) directly into the shallow aquifer and deeper bedrock aquifer.
Kauffman & Minteer, Inc. in Jobstown: From 1960 to 1981, Kauffman and Minteer, Inc., an industrial transportation company, discharged wastewater used to clean the inside of its trucks into a drainage ditch and an unlined lagoon. The wastewater contained hazardous substances. In 1984, a dike that surrounded the lagoon broke, allowing wastewater to migrate off site to a neighboring property and into wetlands. Discharges from the lagoon and truck washing areas contaminated shallow groundwater beneath the site and threatened the intermediate aquifer, a major source of potable water.
Roebling Steel Company in Florence: The 200-acre site is where Roebling produced steel and wire products for many years before closing in the 1980s. Buildings on site contained contaminated dust, exposed asbestos, and liquid and solid wastes from equipment, tanks, piping, pits and sumps. The site included two inactive sludge lagoons and an abandoned landfill. Soil all around the site is contaminated with heavy metals such as lead, chromium and cadmium. River and creek sediments and wetlands were contaminated with heavy metals such as lead, chromium and copper, and hazardous oils and tars. Groundwater under the site is sporadically contaminated with various heavy metals, including arsenic, lead and copper in a small number of wells.
Unimatic Manufacturing Corporation in Fairfield: Unimatic operated an aluminum die casting manufacturing process at the site from 1955 to 2001. Spraying harmful lubricants on molds resulted in spillage and splatter throughout the interior of the building, and the facility discharged polluted wastewater and through leaking pipes to a discharge point at the northeastern corner of the property. The poorly constructed wastewater pipes allowed the contaminated wastewater to leak into the groundwater, soil, and sediments at the property.
White Chemical Corp in Newark: Historic industrial activities at the site included the manufacturing of a variety of acid chlorides and fire retardant compounds. The White Chemical Corporation operated the facility from 1983 until July 1990. Facility violations led to numerous citations from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protect, and the mishandling of chemicals led to their release and contamination of the soil and groundwater at the site. During an initial investigation, EPA found over 10,000 55-gallon drums and other containers of hazardous substances improperly stored throughout the site. Drums and other containers were found in various stages of deterioration, fuming or leaking their contents onto the soil.
You can search through all of NJ’s Superfund sites here. (Superfund site info above provided by the EPA.)