USEPA: Stop the TOXIC mercury from polluting the Arthur Kill!
In Linden, New Jersey – a state-designed environmental justice community whom has been blighted for decades with incinerators and industry – the USEPA is proposing a cleanup plan for a highly contaminated site that will clearly continue to harm the community. The site, known as the LCP Chemical Superfund Site, has high levels of cancer-causing mercury and witches brew of other toxic chemicals including arsenic, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), volatile organic chemicals (VOCs), chlorobenzene, benzene.
The mercury from this site has caused “DO NOT EAT” advisory for the adjacent river, the Arthur Kill, because the chemical has bioaccumlated in the blue claw crabs and fish. Now, USEPA is proposing a shoddy “cleanup that is not protective of health and safety, especially after the flooding and destruction that Hurricane Sandy caused.
Sign our petition and tell USEPA to provide a complete cleanup for this already negatively impacted community. Tell USEPA to select the ONLY cleanup alternative that will remove all toxic contaminants, including mercury from the LCP Chemicals Superfund site in Linden and the Arthur Kill!
Richard J. Gerbounka
- RCRA, Superfund
- Director of Superfund, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 2
- Community Involvement Coordinator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 2
- Remedial Project Manager, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 2
- State Representative
- State Representative
- State Senator
- State Senator
- Governor of New Jersey
RE: USEPA Proposed Plan
LCP Chemicals Superfund Site
Linden, New Jersey
As a concerned citizen, I am writing to comment on the USEPA’s selection of Remedy 4b for the LCP Chemicals Superfund Site in Linden, New Jersey. After careful review of the Feasibility Study and the Remedial Investigation, I do not think that the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s (USEPA) selected remedy of Alternative 4b suffices to provide a cleanup that is protective of human health and the environment.
The former Linden Chemical and Plastics (LCP) site was a major source of mercury contamination in Geddes Brook, Nine Mile Creek and Onondaga Lake. As part of the site remediation, more than eight tons of mercury was removed from the plant property. Additional upland sites for which there are other responsible parties are also in various stages of remediation. As of 2010, Records of Decision (legal agreements) have been signed for cleanup plans at eight Superfund subsites. http://www.dec.ny.gov/chemical/8668.html We strongly recommend the USEPA select Alternative 5a/b (Removal and off-site disposal of the Principal Threat Waste and contaminated building debris). This remedy selection is consistent with other remedy selections like the Geddes brook, Nine Mile Creek and Onondaga Lake cleanup. The current proposed plan contains significant deficiencies in the protectiveness to human health and the environment.
The following comments are to be submitted for the permanent record on the LCP Proposed Plan regarding our rejection of the USEPA’s Proposed Plan and the significant short falls in its protectiveness, permanence and long term effectiveness in compliance with the USEPA the LCP Chemicals Superfund Site and the USEPA’s Proposed Plan—4b as well as our support for Alternative 5a/b.
Alternative 5a/b is the only alternative that offers long-term protection from these hazardous wastes that directly threaten human health and the environment and also provide permanent cleanup of the Principal Threat Waste (PTW) at LCP Chemicals Superfund Site. Cleanup of the PTW is one of the decision making tools used by the USEPA to decide on the Superfund selection remedy process and its Applicable or Relevant and Appropriate Requirements (ARAR’s). Only Alternative 5a/b addresses the PTW and provides a permanent cleanup of PTW, mercury, which is a direct threat human health and the environment. Along with the selection of Alternative 5a/b we also want additional mercury cleanup in the sediments that bio-available to wildlife and biota.
According to a MARCH 2004 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, under Threats and Contaminants Preliminary sampling of soil, surface water, and sediment revealed elevated levels of mercury, and other metals. Site contaminants potentially impact the Arthur Kill, which is used for recreational boating and fishing. The peregrine falcon, northern harrier, great blue heron, and little blue heron, all state-listed species, are reported to either breed or hunt in the salt marshes near the Site. Prall’s Island, located approximately 1,000 feet east of the mouth of the South Branch Creek, and is a breeding area and rookery for some of these birds.
Alternative 4b violates National Estuary Program that was established by the Congress in the 1987 amendments to the Clean Water Act. Its purpose is to promote the development and implementation of comprehensive management plans for estuaries of national significance that are threatened by pollution. At the request of the governors of New York and New Jersey, the EPA accepted the New York-New Jersey Harbor & Estuary into the National Estuary Program in 1988. Since that time, it has been an effective partnership for advancing regional efforts to achieve the goals of the Clean Water Act for fishable and swimmable waters throughout the nation.
The USEPA’s selection of Alternative 4b also violates National Oceanic and Atmospheric policies on the Cleaning up and Restoring Sites in New Jersey. The Office of Response and Restoration’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Division (OR&R/CPRD) partners with other agencies and responsible parties to ensure that waste site cleanups not only reduce risk but also restore natural resources and improve the quality of the environment. NOAA Coastal Resource Coordinators (CRCs) get involved early in site cleanups to:
• ensure that ecological assessments and the entire cleanup process evaluate and mitigate any risk to sensitive species and habitats;
• incorporate environmental restoration into cleanup actions;
The New Jersey Resource Trustees, which includes the USEPA as a member, states the following in its mission:
Protecting and Restoring Coastal and Marine Resources
NOAA’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Division (CPRD) protects and restores natural resources in marine and coastal environments that are affected by hazardous waste sites. NOAA Coastal Resource Coor¬dinators (CRCs) work with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the State of New Jersey, and other trustee agen¬cies to identify risks to natural resources, recommend site clean¬ups that protect habitat and wildlife, and design projects to restore injured resources and habitats.
The USEPA must choose the Alternative 5 A/B or they will violate their mandate to protect coastal resources and violate their mandate through the Congressional National Estuary Program and the Federal Clean Water Act.
The contamination that has occurred on the LCP Chemicals Superfund Site is of regional importance to New Jersey’s waterways and its ecologically sensitive receptors found in the Arthur Kill and on the receiving end of the Raritan Bay. Due to the proximity of this site to the Arthur Kill and a residential neighborhood, it is of dire importance to properly remediate this site and remove all contamination found on site. The Arthur Kill is currently one of the most heavily contaminated bodies of water found in New Jersey and will continue to be unless action to reduce any further contamination is taken.
This violation of protecting America’s waters has led to the poisoning of biota that is found in the Arthur Kill and has allowed contaminants such as mercury, arsenic, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), volatile organic chemicals (VOCs), chlorobenzene, benzene, and other contaminants to enter the food chain. Fully cleaning up LCP Chemicals would set an example to the rest of New Jersey and the nation that a proactive step is being taken in protecting human health and the environment. The choosing of Full Containment and Partial/Full Depth PTW Excavation Off-Site Disposal (Alternative 5a/5b) would provide the most complete cleanup available and set a new standard for cleanups everywhere.
Extensive research has been done on mercury and results were found that in fetuses, infants, and children, the primary health effect of methylmercury is impaired neurological development. Methylmercury exposure in the womb, which can result from a mother's consumption of fish and shellfish that contain methylmercury, can adversely affect a baby's growing brain and nervous system. Impacts on cognitive thinking, memory, attention, language, and fine motor and visual spatial skills have been seen in children exposed to methylmercury in the womb.
The choosing of Full Containment and Partial/Full Depth Principal Threat Waste Excavation Off-Site Disposal (Alternative 5a/5b) would provide the best of the possible remedies proposed as well as provide consistency with the cleanup of LCP mercury contamination in Geddes Brook, Nine Mile Creek and Onondaga Lake. As part of the site remediation, more than 8 tons of mercury was removed from the plant property. This important regional resource in the Arthur Kill is no less important than the cleanup of Geddes Brook, Nine Mile Creek and Onondaga Lake.
Over the decades, the contamination of the Arthur Kill has become so problematic that the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) & the Department of Fish and Wildlife have restricted the consumption of fish and crabs due to the overwhelming contamination of the biota found in the water. This is a clear violation of the Clean Water Act of 1972 and a violation of the Public Trust Doctrine which were passed to ensure the protection of America’s waters and access to the water by the public. While in theory this restriction would provide some protection of public health, the public many who don’t speak English or whose cultural heritage is to fish and crab in their community continue to use these waters of the United States as a food source for their families.
The USEPA Proposed Plan to cap this will continue to threaten residents who live in this area and who experienced flooding from severe storms and hurricanes just like Hurricanes Irene and Sandy. The contamination that has come off Superfund Sites, like the LCP Chemicals site, has entered the Arthur Kill and was then brought back inland after flood waters from the already contaminated Arthur Kill submerged most of this area. With the recent severe weather events in New Jersey it is important to select remedies for contaminated sites that will not have the potential of creating complications or breaking in the future. Remedy selection 5A/B is the only remedy that provides some measure of protection against future natural disasters.
These waters have posed a threat to the residents who live in this area and who experience flooding from storms and hurricanes just like Hurricanes Irene and Sandy. The contamination that has come off of sites, such as the LCP Chemicals site, has entered the Arthur Kill and was then brought back inland after flood waters from the already contaminated Arthur Kill submerged most of this area.
The USEPA presents several pros to choosing alternative 5a/b yet does not present alternative 5a or 5b as a proposed alternative. In the USEPA’s Proposed Plan and evaluation of alternatives, the agency shows that 5a/b meets the criteria for selecting a remedy. Alternative 5a/b meets the following criterion:
1. Overall protective of the environment and human health
2. Compliance with applicable or relevant appropriate requirements (ARARs)
3. Long-term effectiveness and permanence
4. Reduction of Toxicity Mobility or Volume Through Treatment
5. Short term effectiveness
8. State/Support Agency Acceptance
9. Community Acceptance
The USEPA states that, “In addition, Alternative 5a and 5b would require between 1,000 and 2,000 trucks to first remove the PTW soil and debris, then to bring in substrate to backfill the excavated areas. Thus Alternative 5a and 5b is the only option that would significantly increase the truck traffic through the local community.” However, the USEPA has overlooked the possibility of using rail lines to take the contaminated material off site. This area has a plethora of freight rail lines and has the Chemical Coast Sec. adjacent to the area. The use of rail lines will highly reduce truck traffic and at the same time reduce the cost of the remediation. This mode of transport has been utilized by the USEPA at other Superfund sites such as Horseshoe Road Superfund Site, Atlantic Realty Superfund Site in Sayreville NJ, and Chemical Insecticide Superfund Site in Edison, New Jersey to remove hazardous materials, reduce truck traffic, and drive the remediation cost down as well.
Even if the USEPA must use trucks this area is well suited to hand the traffic and the tradeoff of removing the PTW is well worth the use of trucks. This amount of truck is relatively small in comparison to the removal of this high toxic waste. The area has many major truck routes in this area that already have significant truck traffic.
The volume of truck is relatively small in comparison to other Superfund Site Remediation’s selected in Region 2 where full removal of PTW has been selected. The Ringwood Mines Superfund site in Ringwood New Jersey is an example where US EPA selected removal of the O’Connor disposal area (12,519 truck trips or about 6,260 trucks) for the remedy selection at that site. The remedy selected for the Ringwood Mines Superfund site would generate significantly more trucks on smaller residential roads than remedy 5 a/b at the LCP Superfund site. USEPA chose the full clean up at that site because of the same exact issues that we are stating for the selection of the remedy at the LCP Superfund site.
The USEPA states that environmental justice considerations will impact all decision-making the agency does. If this is true and the USEPA uses environmental justice as a benchmark for their decision-making process they must select alternative 5A/B for the remedy at this site. This selected remedy would provide at least a measure of protection for this environmental justice community as it removes the principal threat waste and does not leave it in place for future generations of people and wildlife to suffer its impact. The fact that the public still uses this area for its food source and that these people that live in this community are already suffering from disproportionate amounts of contamination in their air, water, and food makes this environmental justice issue of the highest magnitude.
As we see with the recent federal government shutdown, assurances that the USEPA will be here in perpetuity to maintain a cap that they want to use to cover this very toxic waste is not something they can do. The federal government shutdown and the funding issues that the United States faces clearly demonstrates that we need to take care of this threatening toxic waste now while we have a federal government with the mandate to address it. The USEPA cannot provide any assurances that they will be funded nor have the mandate in the future to continue to maintain the cap on this operable unit adjacent to the Arthur Kill forever.
We strongly suggest the USEPA to look at Alternative 5a/b for a thorough cleanup for the LCP Superfund Chemicals Site. Alternative 5a/b is the only alternative that removes the majority of the risk from this site and is protective of human health and the environment. It is also the only alternative that is consistent with other LCP chemical site cleanups throughout the country. The USEPA has done the community a disservice if they do not at least remove the main threats of this site and seek to address sediments and other contaminants when funding allows.
We support the vision of the Edison Wetlands Association (EWA), its goal to reduce environmental contamination, reduce the effect that this site in joint with the Author Kill has on the Raritan Bay, the protection and remediation of public resources, the increase of access to the public, and the long term protection of human health. We would like the full restoration of this area in order to provide a clean and safe habitat for all biota and a fair cleanup for the people marginalized by companies and their pollution. In an area that already experiences flooding and is in close proximity to the Arthur Kill it is important to provide an avenue which will reduce flooding and provide a vital public service.
I strongly suggest the USEPA look at Alternative 5a/b for a thorough cleanup of the LCP Chemicals Site. Alternative 5a/b is the only alternative that removes the majority of the risk from this site, especially that of the toxic mercury, and is protective of human health and the environment. The selection of this remedy ensures protection for generations to come and provides a complete and reliable remediation alternative to utilize and implement. Thank you in advance for taking these comments into consideration.
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