VINELAND — State law enforcement officials said Thursday they will consider a city request for an investigation into the Pure Earth Inc. hazardous waste site.
City Council is expected to approve a resolution during its meeting on Tuesday that officially asks the state to investigate which entity is responsible for environmental problems at the site, located in a city industrial park on North Mill Road. The resolution also asks the Attorney General’s Office that all “culpable parties be prosecuted in accordance with the law.”
The resolution further seeks the help of the state and Cape May County legislators in pursuing the investigation.
The state Attorney General’s Office will “review it and give it appropriate consideration,” office spokesman Peter Aseltine said of the city’s anticipated request.
“It would not be proper for me to comment on the likelihood of an investigation or whether this has been the subject of an investigation, per our usual policy,” Aseltine said.
State Sen. Jeff Van Drew, D-Cape May, Cumberland, Atlantic, said he will support the city’s request.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is proceeding with what local officials said is a $1 million site-stabilization and remediation program at the Pure Earth site. The EPA began its work in July after being notified by the state Department of Environmental Protection about significant problems at the site.
Pure Earth shuttered its hazardous waste processing operations in February 2011.
City officials charge that Pure Earth abandoned the site, leaving behind more than 250,000 gallons of used motor oil, 100 55-gallon drums of chemicals, and acres of stockpiled contaminated soils. They further charge that runoff from the site is leaching into soil and possibly groundwater and tributaries of the Maurice River.
More specific information about the materials being cleaned up was not available from the EPA.
The Spain-based Tradebe Environmental Services LLC is seeking approval from DEP to take control of and operate the location as a hazardous-waste processing operation. Tradebe states on its website that the company, which already operates 18 facilities in the United States, has “unique programs and patented technology to recycle hazardous chemicals.”
City Council was prepared to also vote on Tuesday to formally oppose the licensing of any company to operate the site.
However, City Council opted, at least for now, against that action after what City Councilman Paul Spinelli and City Solicitor Richard Tonetta called “good faith” advances on behalf of Tradebe.
Tonetta said Tradebe officials said they would not pursue their licensing request with DEP for the Pure Earth site for a period of three weeks. Tradebe officials said they would provide the city and local residents with information about their plan during that period, Tonetta said.
At the order of City Council, Tonetta said he would ask Tradebe to put its offer in writing.
Tradebe officials could not be reached for comment.
City officials charge that the DEP never provided the proper oversight of Pure Earth and other companies that operated hazardous-waste processing operations at the site in the industrial park. The DEP also allowed the companies to operate despite complaints from local residents, the city’s Health Department, the Cumberland County Improvement Authority and companies in the industrial park about issues such as air contamination, water runoff and alleged illegal activities at the site, the city charges.
Earlier this month, the city awarded a $5,000 contract to hire the Lieberman & Blecher law firm to help the municipality contest the possible awarding of a license to any company wanting to take over operations at the Pure Earth site. City officials said the law firm, based in Princeton, Mercer County, has the expertise in environmental law needed by the city.
Work at the Pure Earth site is the second significant environmental cleanup operation ongoing in the city.
EPA officials said they are nearing completion of another phase in the at least $124 million effort to stop the flow of arsenic from the Vineland Chemical Co. Superfund site. The work will stop the flow in the city’s North Vineland section into the nearby Blackwater Branch. The waterway drains into the Maurice River and, eventually, Union Lake in Millville.
The final phase of the work involves excavating 89,900 tons of arsenic-laced peat from a section of the Blackwater Branch between the river and the Maurice River Parkway. The combined four stages of the work involved removing 251,000 tons of peat, which is organic material found in marshy or damp regions, from Blackwater Branch.
The EPA began the Blackwater Branch cleanup operation about four years ago.
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