NJDEP: State is Overseeing Toxic Site, PEER Report Was 'Misleading'
The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection said they are taking care of cleanup at the Borden Chemical site in Fair Lawn
A hazardous waste site in Fair Lawn that appeared last week on an environmental group’s list of toxic sites left uncontrolled by the Environmental Protection Agency is in fact being overseen by the state, a spokesman for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection said Friday.
While groundwater contaminants still exist at the Borden Chemical site, located at 8-10 22ndSt., they are being monitored through quarterly progress reports, NJDEP spokesman Larry Hajna said. Most recently, the site opted in to the Licensed Site Remediation Professionals (LSRP) Program, which oversees the remediation of contaminated sites on behalf of the NJDEP.
The issue came to light Wednesday when Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) issued a statement excoriating the EPA for failing to add Borden Chemical and 26 other New Jersey sites to its National Priorities List, even though the sites had exceeded the agency's cut off score on its Hazard Ranking System. Sites that exceeded the necessary hazard score but were not added to the priority list were left under the state’s jurisdiction.
“EPA has yet to explain why it decided not to list sites that otherwise qualified for Superfund and why it deferred cleanup oversight to what its own Inspector General found was a failed cleanup program,” New Jersey PEER director Bill Wolfe said in a statement. “The people of New Jersey have a right to know how these critical decisions are made and whether EPA or the Governor’s Office are delaying or derailing Superfund listing.”
The EPA’s decision to not assign certain sites Superfund status is not as cut-and-dry as PEER’s report would indicate, however, according to a statement released by the EPA.
“Placing sites on the Superfund list is a decision made using a number of factors, not just their hazardous ranking score,” the statement reads. “One important factor is whether the site is being addressed under another cleanup program, as is the case with these sites.”
NJDEP spokesman Larry Hajna was blunt in expressing his disdain for PEER’s report, which he said was intentionally misleading because it did not explain the EPA’s actual listing process.
“This is a nonsense report that [PEER director Bill Wolfe] did and he’s really creating a lot of concern through the use of selective spin,” said Hajna, who added that the DEP does not recognize Bill Wolfe and PEER as a legitimate environmental organization. “The sites that are on the [PEER] list are ones that we’ve also evaluated and they are sites that the responsible party has been working on through the state program.”
According to an NJ Spotlight report, environmentalists remain unsatisfied with the EPA's decision not to prioritize the sites and have argued that receiving Superfund status is important because the designation comes with the potential for federal funding, greater expertise and stricter cleanup standards than does leaving the issue up to the state.
Contamination at the Borden Chemical site likely started in the 1940s under then-owner Commercial Ink & Lacquer Company, which manufactured inks, lacquer and paints. Borden purchased the property in the 1960s for its Borden Coatings and Graphics plant, which manufactured on site solvent-based printing inks used in the food and consumer products industries through the 1990s.
In 1992, Borden entered into an agreement with NJDEP concerning ground water and soil remediation at the site, and an interim remedial ground water collection/treatment system was designed and installed later that year.
Ground water contaminants that include benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, xylenes, arsenic and dissolved arsenic are still present in the site's ground water and continue to be monitored quarterly, Hajna said.
Today, the rectangular 4.5-acre lot is owned by Paramus Auto Mall, which purchased the site in 2004 and redeveloped it as a parking lot/car storage center.