William E. Cleary Sr. | CNBNews
GLOUCESTER CITY, NJ (January 26, 2020)--The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is continuing the cleanup of contaminants in Gloucester City that came from the defunct Welsbach Factory located at King and Essex Streets and the Delaware River. Presently the property is the home of the Gloucester Marine Terminal/Holt property. The same area was also the home of Armstrong Cork for many years.
The Welsbach factory manufactured gas mantles in Gloucester City from the 1890s to the 1940s. Using state-of-the-art technology at the time, the wicks for the gas lamps were dipped into radioactive thorium so they would “glow in the dark.” The company, not knowing the thorium was radioactive, discarded the wicks throughout Gloucester City. A similar manufacturing company, General Gas Mantle, located in Camden City did the same with the waste coming from their plant.
Since 1999 the EPA has been removing the thorium at various sites such as the baseball and football fields on Johnson Blvd. The same cleanup process has been ongoing in Camden.
In 1980, the NJ Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) sponsored a flyover radiological survey in Gloucester City and Camden City. Based on the survey, the EPA investigated more than 1,000 properties surrounding the two former gas mantle facilities – Welsbach in Gloucester City and General Gas Mantle (GGM) in Camden City.
As for the upcoming work at the Gloucester Marine Terminal, a source told us that an above ground tank 42 feet in diameter and 16 foot tall was going to be erected at the site. Elias Rodríguez, Public Information Officer, Region 2, New York, was asked to explain the purpose of such a large structure.
"You are likely referring to the tank for the groundwater treatment system. Groundwater treatment will be conducted using physical and chemical treatment processes. The final design of the groundwater treatment facility including the treatment equipment/tanks has not been completed. However, one of the tanks to be designed/constructed is expected to be an open tank and would be used as an emergency back-up storage tank. So, it would not regularly contain impacted groundwater. In addition, the contaminants of concern are not ones where movement from the water to air is a concern," said Rodriquez.
"Construction of a groundwater treatment facility has been initiated and is part of existing work addressing excavation of radiologically contaminated soil at the port facility. Water encountered during the soil excavations will require treatment/disposal and that necessitates the design/construction of the groundwater treatment facility," he said.
"The Holt Cargo/Gloucester Marine Terminal parking lot is the location of the groundwater treatment facility. The port is the location of the former Welsbach facility. The former Welsbach facility operated from the turn of the century to roughly the 1940s and a waste by-product from their manufacture of gas lanterns contained low levels of radioactive material that was used as fill material in areas of Gloucester City and Camden City. One of the remaining buildings on-site at the port facility is the Armstrong Building."
Rodriquez said the Welsbach Company (Gloucester City) and GGM (Camden City) produced gas mantles from the late 1890s to 1941. The companies used radioactive elements in the production of the mantles to help them glow brighter when heated. In the early 1990s, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection found elevated levels of radiation at the site and in many residential areas. EPA added the site to the Superfund National Priorities List in June 1996.
Cleanup activities completed to date include:
¨ Excavation/disposal of contaminated soil and waste materials from numerous properties in Gloucester City and Camden;
¨ The demolition/off-site disposal of the former GGM building in Camden;
¨ Cleanup of radiologically contaminated building surfaces in the Armstrong Building, the last standing building associated with the former Welsbach Company at the port in Gloucester City;
¨ Cleanup/restoration of the William Flynn Veterans Complex, which included rebuilding three baseball fields, a football practice field, and a parking area; and
¨ Cleanup/restoration of the Nicholson Road Sports Complex, which included restoration of three softball fields, a Little League baseball field, bathroom facilities, and a concession stand. Current cleanup activities include:
¨ Excavation/disposal of radiologically contaminated soil at fifteen locations at the port facility; and
¨ Relocation of utilities (e.g. electrical, gas, telecommunication) within the port facility to facilitate subsequent large excavation of radiologically contaminated soil.
The prime contractor for the groundwater treatment facility is APTIM Corp. APTIM specializes in engineering, program management, environmental services, disaster recovery, complex facility maintenance, and construction services. They have offices in Philadelphia and New York City and throughout the United States and Canada. https://www.aptim.com
The value of the groundwater treatment facility project being built at the marine terminal is estimated to be $7 million Rodriquez said.
According to Rodriquez an estimated $384 million has been spent for investigations and clean-up and that includes work in Camden and Gloucester City.
When asked how much longer will it take to finish the projects in Camden and Gloucester Cities Rodriquez said, "The current projection for the complete cleanup of these two communities is 10 years."
From the EPA's WELSBACH & GENERAL GAS MANTLE Superfund website;
To address long-term site risks, EPA has investigated close to 950 properties in Camden and Gloucester City and has completed the cleanup on 163 of the nearly 175 properties identified as contaminated. To date, EPA has excavated and disposed of more than 350,000 tons of radiologically contaminated soils and waste materials. These cleanups included removing about 105,000 tons of contaminated soil from Gloucester City Swim Club and adjacent residential properties; about 23,000 tons from the site of a Gloucester City middle school; 35,000 tons from residential properties along Highland Avenue and Klemm Boulevard in Gloucester City; more than 55,000 tons from the General Gas Mantle area in Camden, more than 16,000 tons from residential properties and wetlands areas along Temple Avenue in Gloucester City, and about 130,000 tons from the recreational properties along Johnson Boulevard in Gloucester City. (See More)