VINELAND — A $5.6 million plan to clean up a federal Superfund site in neighboring Newfield in Gloucester County isn’t stopping Vineland officials from demanding more from the project.
The plan reached between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Shieldalloy Metallurgical Corp. was announced this week.
City officials said they want the EPA to better determine whether hazardous materials from the Shieldalloy site have contaminated Burnt Mill Pond in Vineland.
“We’re pushing on this really hard to make sure we’re not forgotten,” said Council President Anthony Fanucci, who will become mayor in January.
Part of the problem involves just where previous testing at Burnt Mill Pond was performed.
A January report prepared for the EPA by a private company indicates tests on sediment at the pond show “lower concentrations” of chromium, the possible result of “natural remediation mechanisms.”
Levels of hexavalent chromium, while “low and very safe,” may be “falsely high” because of alkaline levels in the pond, it continues.
“Sediment at Burnt Mill Pond exist at safe and stable conditions,” the report concludes.
EPA spokesman Elias Rodriguez said there is “no scientific rationale for EPA to continue to test these sediments.”
However, city officials said the federal agency needs to test below the sediment that may have only flowed into Burnt Mill Pond in recent years.
The city wants testing on the soil beneath the sediment. That’s where local officials contend a potential problem exists, something indicated by earlier tests that showed hazardous material exceeded residential and industrial standards.
Part of Burnt Mill Pond is lined with homes. The city took control of the pond in the 1980s, buying and improving the site with the help of state Green Acres funding that required public access.
The pond, which was finally refilled with water in March after the city spent about $1 million to repair a dam and spillway that washed out in an August 2011 storm, is once again a popular recreational spot.
“We have people out there who have a right to clean land and clean water,” Councilman Paul Spinelli said.
The Sierra Club’s New Jersey chapter also said the plan falls short of complete remediation of the 67-acre property.
The plan requires Shield-alloy to put a 2-foot-thick protective layer of impervious soil over the site, excavate and remove contaminated sediment, and ban residential use of the property. The firm must use “nonhazardous additives” that will cause groundwater contaminants to “naturally decline.”
Other problems involving slag piles and radioactive waste will be handled by the state Department of Environmental Protection and the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission, according to the EPA. Plans are being developed for those issues, the agency said.
The plan requires Shieldalloy to sample the Hudson Branch, one of two waterways that help fill Burnt Mill Pond. The company must remove 9,800 cubic yards of sediment contaminated with heavy metals from the stream bottom.
Jeff Tittel, the Sierra Club N.J. chapter’s director, called the cleanup plan “a huge sellout.”
“This site is badly contaminated … but the EPA has failed to propose a real cleanup” Tittel said. “This plan hurts the environment and the (nearby) people of Vineland.
“Eventually, the caps will fail, allowing hazardous materials to pollute the groundwater and community around this site,” he said. “This is a dirty deal that lets polluters off the hook for millions of dollars at the expense of the community and the environment.”
But Judith A. Enck, administrator for EPA’s Region 2, which includes New Jersey, wrote that the cleanup plan “is an example of how Superfund is designed to work. Those responsible for the contamination pay for the work, not the taxpayers.
“This agreement is an important step in getting this site cleaned up,” she wrote.
According to the EPA, groundwater at the site is contaminated with hexavalent chromium and other volatile organic compounds from ore and metal processing that occurred at the site from 1955 to 2006. Hexavalent chromium is a known cause of cancer and targets the respiratory system, kidneys, liver, skin and eyes, according the U.S. Department of Labor.
The site is also contaminated with perchlorate, which was used to produce rocket fuel, fireworks, flares and explosives, the EPA said.
Perchlorate can affect thyroid glands at high doses, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Three nearby Superfund sites — Iceland Coin Laundry, Vineland Chemical Co. and the Kil-Tone Co. — are undergoing cleanups. Work also continues on the Nascolite Corp. site, a Superfund site that straddles the Vineland-Millville border.