The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has finalized a $72 million cleanup plan for the Matteo & Sons Superfund site in Gloucester County, but New Jersey’s Sierra Club chapter is criticizing the agency’s reliance on an asphalt cap for part of the project, calling it a “Band-Aid.”
Cleanup plans have been underway for years at the 82.5-acre site on Crown Point Road in West Deptford, and a public meeting was held in July. The announcement that the agency has finalized the plan came Tuesday.
The site borders a tributary of the Delaware River and includes a property across the street formerly used by Mira Trucking.
The EPA says its plan will address lead and other contaminants that came from operations that included crushing and recycling batteries, as well as on-site disposal, which polluted soil and groundwater with lead, antimony, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).
“EPA’s Record of Decision calls for removing the main source of contamination within the Matteo site to address the potential exposure pathways,” Pete Lopez, EPA regional administrator, said in a news release.
The EPA said its plan calls for “digging up and properly disposing of battery casing waste and contaminated soil" and then filling those areas with clean soil.
But contaminated soil on 10 acres in use as part of scrapyard operations will only be required to be covered with asphalt. Pollution at the site began in the 1960s, and it was placed on the National Priorities List in 2006.
EPA officials say they will sample the soil during and after the cleanup to make sure remediation efforts worked. The agency will then review the site every five years.
The cost of the cleanup is estimated at $72.2 million.
“The EPA plan is half a loaf," said Jeff Tittel, director of the Sierra Club. "They are removing some of the contaminated soil, but unfortunately, they are capping the rest of it. We need real action from the EPA to protect human health and completely remove this contamination, not a cap that will continue contaminating the environment. "
Tittel said he was happy the EPA is taking action but believes the caps will eventually crack and fail and thus amount to a “Band-Aid.”
“Under the EPA rules, they are supposed to consider a full cleanup with full removal of toxic materials, but instead they came in with a capping plan that won’t work long-term," Tittel said. “The site is heavily polluted with heavy metals and hazardous chemicals.”
The site is near Woodbury Creek, a tributary of the Delaware River.
Tittel said he fears flooding could swamp the cap and leach chemicals into the water.
“The people living in this area have been living with toxins in their soil and groundwater for too long," he said.
The EPA under the Trump administration has said Superfund sites are a priority.
“All across our region, the Superfund program is working with state and local partners to consult with communities, accelerate cleanups, and make progress on potential site reuse and redevelopment,” Lopez, the EPA regional administrator, said.