The EPA wants to add Pioneer Metal Finishing Inc. in Franklin Township, Gloucester County, to the Superfund list because soil or sediment near the facility and a neighboring wetland is contaminated with chromium, copper, and nickel at levels that pose a threat to human health and the environment.
The soil is also contaminated with PCBs, according to the EPA proposal. The state’s Department of Environmental Protection also supports the Superfund designation. The proposal is currently in a 60-day public comment period.
“Proposing to add the Pioneer Metal Finishing Inc. site to the National Priorities List is an important first step toward protecting human health and the environment in affected communities,” said EPA Regional Administrator Pete Lopez in a news release.
Pioneer Metal Finishing is a former electroplating facility on Coles Mill Road in Franklinville. It began operations in the mid-1950s. It discharged untreated waste into an adjacent wetland through the late 1970s.
The waste was comprised of metallic salts, untreated sludge, rinse water, cleaning solutions, and plating wastes, and went into an unlined trench leading to the wetland. The company began treating the waste from the late 1970s through 1981, when a new system was installed that stopped the discharges.
The company stopped the electroplating process in 2005 and the facility is now used for powder coating. But the issues linger. The wetland flows into Scotland Run, which flows through other wetlands potentially contaminated by the previous releases. That threatens Timothy Lake, which is one mile downstream and is used for swimming, boating, and fishing.
Other recreational water bodies that may be threatened include Malaga and Willow Grove Lakes, as well as the Union Lake Wildlife Management Area with eight threatened or endangered species habitats.
The DEP first asked the EPA for help in addressing the site contamination in 2018. The EPA collected samples and found that flammables, acids, and corrosive materials were present at the facility. Over a year, the EPA removed 100 tons of hazardous waste and cyanide-contaminated debris from the facility. That included 20,000 gallons of liquid waste.
The state supported placing the site on the Superfund list to qualify for cleanup.
Pioneer is one of four sites across the United States the EPA is proposing to add to the list.
It also announced six properties that are now officially Superfund sites, bringing the U.S. total to 1,339.