The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is taking over the completion of design plans to support a portion of the Raritan Bay Slag Superfund site cleanup from NL Industries.
The agency said this move will ensure the design is completed in a technically sound manner that will lead to a successful cleanup of the Raritan Bay Slag site, which was placed on EPA’s Superfund National Priorities List in 2009.
On Jan. 30, 2014, the EPA directed the corporate owner to conduct a $79 million cleanup at the site but NL Industries has not lived up to their obligations, according to Deputy EPA Region 2 Administrator Walter Mugdan, who is the acting regional administrator.
“Today’s action will allow us to move forward quickly and effectively for this Superfund site community,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “EPA’s Superfund program is about protecting people’s health. We must address the high lead levels that are the legacy of using slag to build walls and jetties; and we must not lose sight of the fact that this critical work impacts the availability of a treasured local resource – the beach.”
“U.S. EPA’s actions will provide the tools we need to remove decades-old lead contamination that have polluted Bay sediments and closed areas to public access,” said New Jersey Commissioner of Environmental Protection Shawn M. LaTourette. “This renewed partnership presents an incredible opportunity to enrich the communities throughout the Raritan Bay watershed as New Jersey continues to defend the public’s right to the full use and enjoyment of their natural resources.”
In October 2016, $7 million in funding from EPA was allocated to begin the cleanup at Margaret’s Creek, part of the Raritan Bay Slag Superfund site, which had elevated levels of lead contamination, as well as areas of slag, a byproduct of metal smelting, and battery casings.
The Raritan Bay Slag Superfund site is on the southern shore of Raritan Bay.
The site consists of the Seawall Sector, which contains a seawall about 2,300 feet long in Old Bridge Township; the Margaret’s Creek Sector, which consists of a 47-acre wetland located immediately east of the Seawall Sector; and the Jetty Sector, which consists of the approximately 750-foot-long western jetty, located nearly a mile west of the seawall in adjacent Sayreville, New Jersey.
The primary sources of contamination are slag and battery casings. The slag deposits are a by-product from NL Industries (formerly known as National Lead Company), a lead smelting company, which for decades dumped waste products into the Raritan River.
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The seawall and the western jetty were constructed using slag from blast furnace bottoms from secondary smelting operations in the late 1960s to early 1970s.
Battery casings were also deposited at the site, particularly in the Margaret’s Creek Sector. The slag and battery casings resulted in high levels of lead contamination, including along the seawall and in the sand of a recreational beach immediately west of the seawall which resulted in closure of a significant portion of a recreational beach area.
Lead is extremely dangerous, lethal if ingested, and can cause developmental issues for children and fetuses. Arsenic increases the chance of cancer, however the amount of arsenic present in the site is too small to cause serious human harm. Antimony and copper are not known to harm humans, but they are unnaturally abundant in the site.
Sea Land Development Corporation constructed the Laurence Harbor seawall and the western jetty using slag, which is waste from the bottom of industrial blast furnaces used to smelt metal in the late 1960s to early 1970s.
Waste impacted about 2,500 feet of the seawall.
The New Jersey Department of Environmental Projection (NJDEP) identified elevated concentrations of lead, antimony, arsenic and copper along the seawall near the area where the processing byproducts were deposited.
While NJDEP investigated the site within the seawall area, another area of concern was identified on the Sayreville waterfront. This area consists of the western jetty at the Cheesequake Creek inlet and waterfront area.
At the request of NJDEP, EPA evaluated the Raritan Bay Slag site for a short-term cleanup action under the federal Superfund program.
EPA added a 47-acre property associated with Margret’s Creek in March 2009 to the site after discovering slag and battery casings in the area.
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