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EPA Administrator Browner Celebrates Superfund Cleanup of Community Park in Boonton, New Jersey; 750th Completed Superfund Site Cleanup in the Country

Release Date: 11/28/2000
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(#00214) New York, NYPlay Ball! It’s a whole new ball game at Pepe Field, where U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Carol Browner, along with Senator Frank Lautenberg, Representative Rodney Frelinghuysen and others celebrated the successful cleanup of toxic gas-producing wastes and the restoration and re-opening of this Boonton, New Jersey community park and little league ball field. Pepe Field is the 750th National Priorities List site in the country that EPA has cleaned up since the federal Superfund program began in 1980. The three-acre park, nestled in a suburban community of 90,000 residents, was closed after EPA named Pepe Field a federal Superfund site in 1982. The property was used from the 1920s to the 1950s as a landfill for wastes from the manufacture of edible oils and cleaning products for household and industrial uses.

"Today, here at Pepe Field, we mark the 750th cleanup of a Superfund toxic waste site. The Clinton-Gore Administration has cleaned up more than three times as many toxic waste sites nationwide than were cleaned up in all previous Administration's combined," said EPA Administrator, Carol M. Browner. "Working together with communities like Boonton, we have made Superfund work fairer, faster and more cost-effectively to protect the public health of the one in every four Americans who live within 3 miles of a toxic waste site, including 10 million children. The dedication today of Pepe Field is a tribute to our common efforts to return these toxic waste sites to productive, community use. It is also a tribute to Senator Frank Lautenberg, who has long been one of the Superfund program's greatest supporters."

During the mid 1960s, the town of Boonton covered the former industrial site with soil and turned it into a recreational facility that included tennis courts, a baseball field, a playground area and a refreshment stand. But, within a short time, the biological decay of the land filled waste began to emit strong hydrogen sulfide odors. In 1969, the town put in place an odor abatement plan for the site, which consisted of a gravel curtain drain extending along one side of the field, a sump for leachate collection and leachate treatment with hydrogen peroxide. The pump house discharged into a culvert that ultimately discharges into the Rockaway River. While these measures did mitigate the problem to some degree, they were not enough to keep the wastes from producing increasingly toxic gases.

Administrator Browner last visited Pepe Field in February 1998 when she announced that the money to clean up the site would be available from EPA’s Superfund Trust Fund. The Agency spent more than $15 million on the cleanup and used innovative methods to make Pepe Field safe again for recreation. Cleanup of the site was completed this summer and the park is now ready for the little league season to resume next spring. The new park has a regulation little league field, a walking path, playground, basketball court, gazebo, flag pole area and concession stand.

Under a cooperative agreement with EPA, the state of New Jersey began an investigation of the site in 1985 and selected a remedy in 1989 that called for containment of the wastes at the site. In late 1991, the state requested that EPA take control of site cleanup activities. EPA performed an extensive reevaluation of the containment remedy and, in 1997, changed the long-term cleanup plan, calling for the excavation of 85,000 tons of waste and the removal to an off-site disposal facility. Cutting edge working methods were developed and used to prevent the potential release of lethal gas during the cleanup. This involved injecting cement dust into the buried waste to partially solidify the material and control the formation and release of the toxic gases.

Funds from the federal Superfund Trust covered 90% of the $15.8 million in cleanup costs and the state of New Jersey funded the remaining 10%. Pepe Field is the 45th National Priorities List Superfund site EPA has completely cleaned up in the Garden State.