In December, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed an interim cleanup at the Universal Oil Products Superfund Site in East Rutherford, N.J. Located next to Berry’s Creek, this particular cleanup was poised to address the issue of containing polychlorinated biphenyls in site waterways.

A public meeting was scheduled to discuss the issue, but it was cancelled because of the government shutdown. During this time, the public comment period expired. Consequently, the EPA reopened the public comment period on the proposed cleanup and rescheduled the meeting for March 6. Public comments are now accepted through March 22.

Proposed Cleanup Plans

The EPA has proposed removing the top two feet of sediment, which totals roughly 16,300 cubic yards. Once cleared, the areas would be backfilled with clean sand and gravel. When a solution is chosen and put in place, fish and wildlife will be exposed to fewer dangerous contaminants and PCBs, and other pollutants will be unable to impact marshes in surrounding areas and Berry’s Creek.

The proposed cleanup also includes the following initiatives:

  • Dewatering, treatment, transportation, and off-site disposal of contaminated sediment
  • Institutional controls, including New Jersey’s fish consumption advisories
  • Post-cleanup monitoring program that examines the response of the neighboring environment to the cleanup and determines whether volatile organic compounds from shallow groundwater are entering waterways — and the impact of this potential discharge

Universal Oil Products Superfund Site History

In operation from 1939 to 1979, a variety of chemicals were made onsite at the 75-acre plant area. The site was added to the Superfund’s National Priorities List in 1983. That same year, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Projection issued an Administrative Consent Order demanding that Universal Oil Products conduct a remedial investigation and feasibility study.

Cleanup efforts have been ongoing since the 1990s. At present, site contamination has been split into three cleanup phases. The first dealt with contaminated soil in the site’s upland areas. The second addressed contaminated groundwater. Currently in progress, the third phase is handling contaminants in adjacent wetland and creek areas.

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