NEWFIELD — Shieldalloy Metallurgical Corp. will move more than 50,000 tons of low-level radioactive materials from its former Gloucester County manufacturing site under a plan approved by the state Department of Environmental Protection.
The announcement follows a protracted legal battle between the DEP and the company, which produced specialty steel and alloy additives, powdered metals and optical surfacing products for decades before phasing out operations in the early 2000s.
DEP Commissioner Bob Martin said the announcement meant that “residents of Newfield and Vineland will no longer have to live with the stigma or potential environmental issues from these materials.”
The company is paying for the removal and will build a short rail spur to meet an existing freight rail line, the DEP announced in a press release Tuesday.
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Shieldalloy had wanted to keep the materials on site and cap them, but the DEP fought in court to oversee the plan and insisted on removal, said spokesman Larry Hajna.
The company’s 67.5-acre property is on the northern border of Vineland and is a federal Superfund site.
In November, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced a $5.6 million legal agreement with Shieldalloy toward cleanup of the contaminated soil, sediment, surface water and groundwater at the site.
The state is handling low-level radioactive materials there through an agreement it has with the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which granted the state authority to regulate hundreds of NRC-licensed sites and facilities in 2009.
For decades, Shieldalloy’s radioactive materials were stored under an NRC license. The company submitted a decommissioning plan to the NRC, proposing to cap the materials and leave them on site.
Hajna said the state fought Shieldalloy in court for the right to handle the site, rather than the NRC.
“There were several years of litigation. We ultimately prevailed in circuit court,” Hajna said of the 2014 decision.
With the approval of the removal plan, Shieldalloy has 60 days to solicit bids and hire a removal contractor, DEP said.
The work plan detailing the removal process and facilities where materials will be shipped is due nine months after the award of the bid. The removal is expected to take several years, DEP said.
The materials include rocky slag and baghouse dust created as byproducts of the company’s operations.
They have been stored on the eastern side of the site for years. One of the metal ores used as a raw material contained small but regulated amounts of radioactive uranium and thorium, according to the DEP.
“This is a win for everyone,” Newfield Mayor Donald Sullivan said in a statement. “It’s an eyesore, and having it out of the town will be a plus, without a doubt. Now there’s potential for another business coming into the site, down the road.”
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There are almost 38,000 cubic yards (more than 44,000 tons) of slag to be moved, and more than 15,400 cubic yards (about 7,000 tons) of dust. A cubic yard is roughly equivalent to the size of a large kitchen refrigerator, according to DEP.