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News Releases from Region 02

EPA Finalizes Multi-Million Dollar Cleanup Plan for Warren County, N.J. Superfund Site

Contact Information: 
Elias Rodriguez (rodriguez.elias@epa.gov)

(New York, N.Y. – Sept. 30, 2016) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has finalized a plan to remove chemicals from soil at the former American National Can facility in Washington Township, N.J. as part of the ongoing cleanup of the Pohatcong Valley Groundwater Contamination Superfund site. The Pohatcong site is contaminated with trichloroethylene (TCE) and perchloroethylene (PCE), which can have serious health effects, including liver damage and increased risk of cancer.

“The EPA’s plan gets to the heart of the contamination that is impacting a large area of the Pohatcong community – the soil at the former American Can facility,” said EPA Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck. “By finalizing the plan, the EPA will ensure that the contamination source is addressed.”

The EPA added the Pohatcong site to the Superfund list in 1989 because of elevated levels of volatile organic contaminants including TCE and PCE in the groundwater.  These contaminants were detected in public supply wells, which are now treated to meet drinking water standards before the water is distributed. 

Because of the complexity of the site, the EPA has divided the site into three parts. The first includes a large area of groundwater contamination located in Washington Borough, and encompasses about 5,600 acres. Most of the residents of this area receive drinking water from a public water supply that meets drinking water standards.  The EPA finalized a cleanup plan in 2006 to address this groundwater contamination, which includes the extraction and treatment of contaminated groundwater.  An engineering design is currently being performed in order to implement this remedy.

The second part of the cleanup relates to TCE groundwater contamination in Franklin and Greenwich.  There is no public water supply currently available in this area and potable wells that are impacted by contamination have received individual treatment units from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.  The EPA finalized a cleanup plan, which includes the construction of a water line throughout the area to provide drinking water, in 2010. This cleanup plan is currently being designed.

The third part of the cleanup deals with the contaminated soil at and around the former American National Can facility in Washington Borough and Washington Township.  The EPA has determined that the primary source of TCE contamination in this area is the soil underlying the former American National Can facility, which has a long history of industrial use.  The facility was previously owned and operated by Pechiney Plastic Packaging, Inc. in the 1990s and is currently owned and operated by Albéa Americas, Inc. 

For this portion of the cleanup, the EPA is requiring the continued use of an existing system that removes harmful chemicals from shallow soil beneath the industrial building at the site by extracting them in vapor form with a vacuum and then filtering the vapors through carbon filters to remove contaminants. For deeper areas of contamination, the EPA is requiring the installation of a similar system between 30 to 100 feet beneath the facility. The selected cleanup also allows for the option of using a heating process in areas of the soil that are highly contaminated. The heat can destroy or evaporate certain types of chemicals. When they evaporate, the chemicals change into gases, which move more easily through the soil. Collection wells capture the harmful chemicals and gases and pipe them to the surface for treatment.  The range of cleanup costs are estimated to be between $7.8 and $12.7 million. The final costs will depend on the findings of design studies, which will determine if one or both of the selected technologies will be required.

The Superfund program operates on the principle that polluters should pay for the cleanups, rather than passing the costs to taxpayers.  The EPA searches for parties legally responsible for the contamination at sites, and it seeks to hold those parties accountable for the costs of investigations and cleanups. Under a March 2015 federal consent decree, Pechiney has the primary responsibility for paying for the cleanup work, including the soil cleanup plan finalized today.

The EPA held a public meeting in Washington Township on June 21, 2016 to explain its proposed plan. The EPA took public comment for 60 days and considered public input before finalizing the plan.

The EPA’s final cleanup plan, including the EPA’s response to public comments, will be posted today at: https://www.epa.gov/superfund/pohatcong-valley-groundwater