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News Releases from Region 02

EPA to Update Community on Toms River, NJ Superfund Site, EPA and National Toxicology Program scientists to Discuss Study of SAN Trimer

01/30/2015
Contact Information: 
Contact: Elias Rodriguez (rodriguez.elias@epa.gov)
212-637-3664
Contact: Elias Rodriguez (rodriguez.elias@epa.gov)
212-637-3664

(New York, N.Y. - Jan. 30, 2015) On February 4, 2015, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will hold a public meeting to discuss how a new scientific study about a previously unknown contaminant relates to the ongoing cleanup at the Reich Farm Superfund site in Toms River formerly Dover, Ocean County, NJ. The EPA will be joined by scientists from the National Toxicology Program to discuss the study. EPA does not plan to make any changes to the groundwater treatment system currently operating at the site, but does intend to make adjustments to the cleanup goals based on the new information. The meeting will take place on Wednesday, February 4, 2015 at 6:00 pm at the Ocean County Library Toms River Branch, 101 Washington Street, Toms River, NJ.

In 1971, a waste hauler working for Union Carbide improperly disposed of drums containing toxic solvents on a portion of the three acre Reich Farm property in Dover, New Jersey. As a result, soil and groundwater on the Reich Farm property were contaminated with volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, including two widely used solvents, PCE and TCE. Exposure to PCE and TCE can have serious health impacts, including liver damage and increased risk of cancer.

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) took a number of actions through the 1970s to address the site, including requiring Union Carbide to remove more than 4,500 drums and some contaminated soil from the site. NJDEP also found PCE and TCE in some drinking water wells adjacent to the site. These wells were closed.

The EPA added the site to its Superfund list in 1983 after EPA investigations determined the extent of the PCE and TCE contamination in the soil and groundwater. The EPA developed a cleanup plan in 1988 for the site that included treating contaminated soils, as well as pumping and treating contaminated groundwater. In 1995 EPA modified the cleanup plan to allow the continued treatment of groundwater through an existing system at the Parkway well field. The soil cleanup was completed in 1995 and the groundwater cleanup is ongoing.

In 1996, a statistically significant elevation in the rates of certain childhood cancers was found in the Toms River area. In response to this finding, New Jersey's Department of Health and Senior Services, in cooperation with the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, studied the potential causes of the elevated cancer rates. During that effort they found previously unknown and unregulated semi-volatile contaminants in the groundwater. The contaminants were later identified as styrene-acrylonitrile trimer, now referred to collectively as the SAN Trimer.

While the EPA did not have scientific information about these contaminants, it did determine that the system originally installed to remove the VOCs would not be effective in removing the SAN Trimer. The EPA enhanced its original cleanup plan to require that a new form of treatment be installed, which used activated carbon to effectively remove semi-volatile chemicals. This enhanced system has been operating since 1997.

The National Toxicology Program is an interagency program headquartered at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, part of the National Institutes of Health. The National Toxicology Program was asked to conduct studies on SAN Trimer to determine health effects, including whether SAN Trimer causes cancer in rats. The NTP studies were completed and peer reviewed by scientific experts before being published in 2012. The NTP found that SAN Trimer did not cause cancer in male and female rats, but did report it caused some non cancer potential health effects such as nerve damage.

Based on this new health information, EPA's Office of Research and Development developed exposure levels based on risk for the chemical, and toxicology experts within EPA subsequently have developed new clean up levels for groundwater and soil at the Reich Farm site.

The EPA had set its goal for Reich Farm as "no detectable levels" of the chemical. The Agency now has more definitive numbers based on potential risk to people's health. Based on the scientific information, the EPA intends to establish the new cleanup goals for soil at 185 parts per million and for groundwater at 60 parts per billion. The new cleanup numbers are based on conservative assumptions, such as an adult drinking 2.5 liters of the groundwater every day for 20 years. Levels of the SAN Trimer in the soil and groundwater are currently below the new levels that EPA is proposing to set. The EPA is proposing to make these soil and groundwater cleanup levels, developed specifically for the Reich Farm Superfund site, part of the legally mandated cleanup requirements for the site.

The system currently treating groundwater at the site reduces the levels of SAN Trimer to levels not detectable by lab equipment. The EPA intends to continue to require this system until all cleanup goals for contaminants are met for the site. Groundwater contaminated with the SAN Trimer is not being consumed. Instead, it is being treated and discharged to the ground surface.

The EPA's public meeting on February 4, 2015 will include scientific experts who conducted the SAN Trimer study, and will join EPA to explain the latest information and discuss how it may impact the cleanup of the site in the future.

To learn more about the Reich Farm Superfund site or to view the SAN Trimer study, please visit:
http://www.epa.gov/region02/superfund/npl/reichfarm/

To view the NTP report, please visit: http://ntp.niehs.nih.gov/ntp/htdocs/lt_rpts/tr573_508.pdf

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