EPA Secures Agreement for $14 Million Cleanup of Lead and Arsenic at the Gibbsboro Dump site

Commentary: EPA's Clean-Up for Gibbsboro Should Go Further

NJ Sierra Club press release  Guest-opinion copy

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced an agreement with the
Sherwin-Williams Company to clean up lead and arsenic contaminated soil and sediment at the Route 561 Dump site in Gibbsboro, N.J. The Route 561 Dump site includes businesses, a vacant lot, a small creek called White Sand Branch and wetlands.

The soil at the Route 561 Dump site is contaminated with lead and arsenic. Arsenic is a known carcinogen, and lead causes damage to children, including learning disabilities and behavioral problems as well as other health impacts for adults. The EPA plan includes removing and disposing of contaminated soil from portions of the site and backfilling the area with clean soil. The soil would be dug up and properly disposed of at facilities licensed to handle the waste. In total, approximately 23,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil will be removed. They have also proposed to cap the site with soil or asphalt, which we are concerned will lead to toxins leaching into the groundwater.


“The EPA moving forward with their plan to remove some of the contaminated waste from the former Route 561 Gibbsboro dump site is good, but they should go further. We are concerned with this plan because it includes a cap over some of the lead and arsenic contamination that may fail. The only way we can to adequately protect public health is to remove all of the contamination. Arsenic is carcinogenic and lead exposure can have serious impacts adults and children. Lead exposure in children can cause reading and learning disabilities, impaired hearing, reduced attention spans, and other behavioral problems,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “The sites near Gibbsboro must be fully cleaned-up because they are toxic and dangerous to the people living nearby. If they continue with this plan, they also need to include regular monitoring, not every five years because all caps eventually fail.”


This clean-up plan includes of soil cover in vegetated areas or asphalt on portions of commercial properties, will also be installed in parts of the site. The EPA will also monitor the air near the work areas. During the soil cleanup activities, monitoring will be conducted to ensure the effectiveness of the cleanup. In addition, the EPA is proposing to place restrictions on how the land may be used in order to limit people’s exposure to the contaminated soil. We are also troubled that the EPA will only conduct a review every five years to ensure the effectiveness of the cleanup. We believe this should be more often given the fact that all caps fail.


“The people of Gibbsboro deserve real clean-up plan because this site has been dumped on for far too long. The EPA is proposing an asphalt cap, which will only cover up some of the hazardous materials. According to scientific studies, these types of controls will fail and will leach into the groundwater. Caps can be cracked and destroyed by buildings or sewer lines; unleashing toxic materials and gases. The arsenic and lead found here can easily leach from the contaminated site and end up in our drinking water, especially into the creek nearby,” said Jeff Tittel. “The EPA says they will monitor this site, but if there is a cap they need to check it more regularly than every 5 years. Capping this site is just a BandAid to any of the toxic pollution that is left behind. What they need to do is install monitoring wells to make sure this contamination doesn’t move.”


Under previous orders by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and the EPA, Sherwin-Williams has removed 8,096 cubic yards of sludge from a former lagoon area, removed 44,785 gallons of liquid waste, installed a soil vapor extraction treatment system to reduce the volatile organic compounds in the soil near two former plant buildings, and installed fencing to limit access to some source areas. We believe no matter how good the plan is they might not have the funding to actually carry the entire plan out it because there is very little funding for Superfund sites. One of the reasons the EPA is taking so long to clean-up additional sites and does not do complete restoration of contaminated sites in New Jersey is because they do not have adequate funding. Congressman Pallone and others have re-introduced legislation that would reinstate the Superfund tax to help fund clean ups since the Superfund Program is broke. However, there are members of Congress that do not support the program. 


“The EPA must include a full clean-up for this Superfund Site because these toxins may leach into the groundwater and threaten human health. If we allow lead and arsenic to stay in the group it will impact drinking water, streams and even worse vapors from the contamination will end up in homes,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “New Jersey’s Superfund Sites must be fully cleaned-up because they are toxic and dangerous, but we cannot do this unless we fund the Superfund program. The failure to have adequate funds means it takes longer to clean-up sites leading to more toxics going into ground water and neighborhoods like Gibbsboro.”