The Environmental Protection Agency has issued a proposal to remove the Crown Vantage Landfill in Hunterdon County from the federal Superfund list, a move the New Jersey Sierra Club opposes.
The site was home to a 10-acre landfill from the 1930s and until the early 1970s that was used for waste disposal at two local paper facilities. The site was contaminated with semi-volatile organic compounds, and PCBs. About 2,450 drums and waste were removed from the landfill, and the area was then filled with clean material. A wall was built by the EPA to stabilize the landfill and prevent materials from reaching the Delaware River, but the portion of the landfill that sits on the eastern bank of the Delaware River floods regularly. The EPA plans to review the site every five years.
“We oppose the EPA’s proposal to remove the Crown Vantage site from the Superfund list. Just because they removed it from the list, does not mean the site is actually clean,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of NJ Sierra Club. “The EPA’s cleanup plan was not really a cleanup plan. They capped the site, leaving most of the toxins and contaminated soils in the ground. In an area that floods regularly, this makes no sense because during the next storm the cap could wash away sending those toxins into the River and the environment.”
Tittel said the plan does adequately protect the Delaware River and the communities around the site, because the landfill is next to the River and has experienced threats of major floods almost every year.
“There have been three major floods since 2014,” Tittel said. “Toxins from the site have leached out into the surrounding environment before and the EPA must remove all the toxic materials on the site to prevent impacts to the Delaware River. The former landfill is contaminated with volatile organic compounds, polychlorinated biphenyls and other pollutants that pose health risks and are possible carcinogens.”
The EPA has committed to long-term monitoring of the site and will ensure the wall is stabilized against the underlying waste and protect it against future erosion impacts. The agency also plans to issue a new deed to prevent activities that could disturb the site and prohibit on-site construction. However these efforts, monitoring or capping a site should not be considered a cleanup. Capping a site allows the contamination to sit for decades pushing more toxic chemicals into the environment, water supply, and community around them.
“Even though the EPA has removed a lot of toxin materials at the site, it still is leaving a tremendous amount of pollution next to the River. Science and history have shown that all caps will fail and that will happen here, threatening the Delaware River. They have installed a slurry wall and cap on the portion of the site near the River, instead of removing the pollutants. We are concerned these measures will not prevent future leaks of toxic material into river. The EPA is leaving toxic materials in areas where it must be removed. We are concerned as all the institutional controls on site will fail overtime and we will not be able to redevelop the site in the future. We are especially concerned that the intense flooding that has occurred along the Delaware River over the past five years and may continue into the future will break down these control mechanisms faster,” said Tittel.
The EPA plans to close the site’s Superfund status and will complete reviews every five years. During monitoring, the EPA reserves the right to act under the Superfund program if site conditions change.
“This cleanup has not gone far enough to protect the Delaware River from these pollutants. Just because the EPA has taken it off the Superfund list, does not mean they have taken away the threat to the River. This site has been leaking pollutants into the Delaware River for far too long. Remediation so far has failed to protect the River and this new phase will help, but will not solve the problem until all the toxic material on the site is removed. This proposed plan will help hold back more pollutants, but at some point in the future it will fail. Instead the site needs a better cleanup plan that will adequately address and remove all the pollutants near the Delaware River,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of NJ Sierra Club.