VINELAND — Work to clean up nonresidential properties contaminated with lead and arsenic related to a former pesticide company will not start until 2021, under a plan now open for public comment.
The cleanup will take several years to finish and may leave some property owners with use restrictions, said Stephanie Vaughn, Environmental Protection Agency Superfund section chief, to about a dozen people during a meeting on the issue Tuesday night.
The $36 million second phase of a four-phase cleanup will focus on about 40 business and industrial properties scattered among residences from Almond Street to Washington Avenue.
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The properties surround the site of a former pesticide manufacturing plant run by Kil-Tone Co. from 1917 to 1922, and another company that operated until about 1933, said EPA Project Manager Sharon Hartzell.
For Seth Davis, the owner of a property at 527 E. Chestnut Ave. that was once the pesticide company and is now an operating sign company, it was more bad news on top of five years of struggle and expense.
“It’s been a nightmare,” he said after the meeting. He estimated his legal bills alone have topped $30,000, and while there has been preliminary work to cap some of his soil with asphalt, he is still waiting for a full cleanup and has not been able to get any paperwork from the EPA about its plans that he can show the bank that holds his mortgage.
“If they have a plan to fix it, give it to me so I can give it to the bank so they know the investment is solid,” he said.
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During the meeting, Davis asked what type of paperwork has been given to homeowners whose properties have undergone cleanup.
“What type of clean bill of health do properties get after they are remediated?” Davis asked EPA officials. “What’s the document look like you are giving the residents?”
“We give them a letter stating their property has been cleaned up and there are no restrictions on its use,” Vaughn said.
But she said some of the nonresidential sites may still have restrictions after the cleanup if they cannot be remediated.
“Then we would give a letter indicating exactly what restrictions might be case by case,” Vaughn said.
Davis’ is one of just a few properties where contamination was found below the water table, so his property is likely to not be fully cleaned up until Phase 3, according to EPA plans.
Since 2017, the EPA has fully cleaned up six residential properties, and another 30 or so will be complete next spring, Vaughn said. The final set of residences will be completed in 2020 and 2021.
“The plan is that nonresidential work will start shortly after the residential work ends,” Vaughn said.
At some point, phase three cleanup will handle those properties with contamination reaching the groundwater, she said. And the fourth, final stage would handle any contamination in the Tarkiln Branch that flows into the Maurice River, she said.