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Monmouth County Superfund Site Gets Clean Bill of Health

A former toxic superfund site is now ready for redevelopment after the completion of a 50 million dollar cleanup of the 15 acre Imperial Oil Company site in Morganville.

Congressman Frank Pallone was joined by Judith Enck and other members of the Environmental Protection Agency(EPA) as well as Marlboro Mayor John Hornik and Monmouth County Freeholder Lillian Burry at the site Tuesday to announce the locations clean bill of health.

The contaminated soil mitigation was funded through 33 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, while the rest was funded through the state Superfund program.

EPA Regional Administrator Enck explains the Superfund program was established as a way of forcing the companies responsible for the contamination to pay for their violations. However, if a company is bankrupt or the contaminator is unknown, then the Superfund program.

“Historically we relied on these chemical and petroleum fees to fill up the Superfund account, but those fees expired in 1996 and have not been renewed.”

Noting that tax dollars have been used to replenish the fund.

Congressman Frank Pallone
Congressman Frank Pall (Ilya Hemlin, Townsquare Media NJ)

One of the advocates of the Superfund site cleanup’s is Congressman Frank Pallone, who says the fee on oil and gas companies was ended by then Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and though there have been efforts made to reinstate it, but Congress hasn’t renewed.

Pallone notes the problem is currently money for clean up of these toxic sites comes from tax dollars from the general revenue.

“That competes with every other issue, healthcare, defense, education; so we’re not able to get as much money as we used to when we had a steady source of money coming from the oil and chemical tax.”

 

The soil from the Imperial Oil site was found to be contaminated with arsenic, lead, PCB’s and other pollutants.  Arsenic is a known carcinogen, responsible for bladder, lung, skin, liver, and prostate cancer. Both lead and PCB’s have been found to cause neurological damage in children.

The EPA was tasked with demolition of the former petroleum refinement site, tearing down many buildings and dozens of oil tanks. 660 cubic yards of PCB contaminated material excavated and disposed off and the soil beneath the pile was covered with an impermeable material to prevent water seepage and human contact. The EPA also installed extraction wells and an oil/water treatment system to remove floating oil from the ground water. A total of 6,488 cubic yards of contaminated soil were removed from residential properties.

Enck says the cleanup of Imperial Oil created 68 jobs since 2011, and 2,300 were created statewide.

Imperial Oil operated from the 50’s until 2007, and due to improper practices, contaminated soil on the property, in the adjacent wetlands, nearby Birch Swamp Brook, and several residential properties. Ground water was also contaminated.

The Department of Environmental Protection originally was responsible for the cleanup, until the EPA took over in 2006.

The site is currently owned by Champion Chemicals, and as part of the EPA settlement the land is on the market for sale. The proceeds will go back to the EPA to cover costs of clean up and some of it will be given to the Township for back taxes.

Farnaz Saghafi, project manager for the EPA says the 15 acre property is zoned for residential and commercial uses.

“Currently it’s being cleaned up to our most stringent standards which are residential standards so it’s usable for both commercial and residential use.”

Marlboro Mayo John Hornik remembers coming to the site as a teenager with his father, who was also a township mayor.

“When I came here in 1983, I was 13 years old and I remember him telling me we’re going to look at a contaminated site, I didn’t know what that meant. I felt if we walked on this premises we were going to start glowing, and I was nervous and scared. And today it’s really clean open space.”

He says his hopes the property can be used by the town for a park or ball fields.

“I’d like the residents who have been kept away from here for so long because of the bad acts of a company to have access to this company. It’s clean, it’s beautiful open space, and I’d like it to be open to the public.”

Adding, if it’s financially feasible Marlboro would be interested in purchasing the land.

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