NEWFIELD BOROUGH, NJ
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The Shieldalloy Metallurgical Corp. (SMC) site is located in Newfield, New Jersey. The site comprises two parcels, the “SMC facility” and the “farm parcel,” and the Hudson Branch, an intermittent stream that discharges into Burnt Mill Pond. The SMC Facility is approximately 67.5-acre and was the location of a specialty plant where chromium alloy and other products were produced. The farm parcel is approximately 19.8 acres of noncontiguous farmland in the City of Vineland approximately 2,000 feet southwest of the facility. The farm parcel has never been used for manufacturing activities. It is considered part of the site because it is land that was purchased by SMC for implementation of the OU1 remedy. Past disposal practices at the SMC Facility, including the release of processed wastewater, caused groundwater contamination; the soil is contaminated with heavy metals. Area residents have been connected to the public water supply. After initial actions to protect human health and the environment, site investigations and cleanup are ongoing.
The radiological contamination in a restricted area on the SMC facility is not part of the Superfund site and is being addressed by New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP), as authorized by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). The restricted area is surrounded by a chain link fence with barbed wire and is posted with specific signage. Inside the perimeter fence is a storage area with slag and dusts containing low levels of radioactive isotopes generated during past facility operations. Further information about the environmental response actions to address the restricted area is available from NJDEP.
From 1955 to 2006, ores and minerals were processed to produce primary metals, specialty metals, and ferro alloys at the SMC Newfield facility. The principle production processes include reduction smelting of ores that produce metal, slag, and other byproducts. Raw materials have contained the following metals: chromium, bismuth, copper, titanium, vanadium, calcium, aluminum, zirconium, iron, lead, nickel, silicon, magnesium, manganese, fluoride salts and oxides of niobium, vanadium, barium, calcium and aluminum.
Chromium contamination of the groundwater was first observed by NJDEP in early 1970 in a Borough of Newfield municipal well and a private well. As a result, NJDEP directed SMC to perform groundwater investigations to determine the extent of the chromium contamination and to develop an appropriate remedial action. In 1979, SMC began pumping and treating chromium-contaminated groundwater. In addition, nine lagoons that stored wastewaters were closed by SMC between 1994 and 1997, with NJDEP oversight. Lagoon closure and remediation activities included sludge removal, liner removal, contaminated soil removal, post-excavation sampling, and backfilling.
After initial actions to protect human health and the environment, and site investigations, EPA placed the site on the Superfund program’s National Priorities List in September 1984.
What Has Been Done to Clean Up the Site?
Initial Actions: The PRP pumped and treated chromium- and VOC -contaminated groundwater from 1979 to 2014. The initial pump-and-treat system was designed to pump and treat 80 gallons per minute (gpm) of contaminated groundwater. In 1989, SMC built a new ion exchange treatment facility to pump and treat 400 gpm of contaminated groundwater. However, technical problems with the ion exchanger prevented the facility from operating at design capacity. In 1992, SMC installed an electrochemical treatment unit that effectively treated the hexavalent chromium groundwater contamination. TRC Environmental Corporation (TRC) and SMC entered into a contract effective January 11, 2006 by which TRC agreed to assume certain cleanup liability otherwise held by SMC for all contaminants at the site, with the exception of the contaminant perchlorate and radiological contamination.
Initially, NJDEP was directly overseeing the PRP-performed actions at the site, with EPA assistance. In a September 2, 2008 letter, EPA advised SMC that it was taking over from NJDEP as the lead agency for the work at the site. Subsequently, on April 28, 2010, an Administrative Order on Consent (AOC) was entered into by EPA, SMC, and TRC. The NRC-regulated slag pile is not included in the AOC.
An optimization study for OU1 submitted by TRC and approved by EPA in November 2010, concluded that the pump and treat remedy selected in the 1996 ROD had successfully reduced contaminants concentrations for chromium and trichloroethene, but that groundwater concentrations had reached asymptotic conditions (steady state) for over 10 years. The study also indicated that additional actions were required to expedite the OU1 remediation. These findings prompted the construction of a new treatment plant using ion exchange to improve operating efficiencies and the advancement of a pilot program to evaluate the effectiveness of in-situ (in place) remediation technologies to expedite groundwater cleanup in 2011. An in-situ pilot program conducted at the site included extensive studies, including small scale injections and large scale injections. Because in-situ technologies can foster conditions suitable for monitored natural attenuation (MNA), a detailed MNA study was also initiated in conjunction with the in-situ pilot treatability program. The pilot program has resulted in a dramatic reduction in the chromium and VOC concentrations in the groundwater plume.
Regulated Slag Pile: In June 2006, SMC submitted a Decommissioning Plan to NRC for review. The plan outlined SMC’s proposal to decommission the slag pile by capping the radioactive material on-site. In 2007, EPA completed its technical review of the plan and provided its input to the NRC. In accordance with a federal ruling in 2014, SMC is now being regulated by the NJDEP’s Bureau of Environmental Radiation under license number 517488-RAD130001. A new Draft Decommissioning Plan was submitted by SMC to which NJDEP has provided comments for SMC’s response. In January 2017, NJDEP approved the decomissioning plan. The decommissioning plan calls for the removal of approximately 50,000 tons of slag and baghouse dust containing low levels of radioactivity from the site.
What Is the Current Site Status?
The site is being addressed in four stages: initial actions and three long-term remedial phases focused on cleanup of the groundwater contaminant plume, and soil and sediment contamination at the SMC facility. NJDEP is also working with SMC to address the low-level radioactive waste material.
The initial treatment of contaminated groundwater has reduced the threat to human health and the environment by mitigating migration of contaminated groundwater while studies leading to the final selection of cleanup technologies for the site are taking place.
Groundwater Plume: SMC, the site’s Potentially Responsible Party (PRP), completed a study of the chromium contaminant plume. During this study, in addition to chromium, sampling detected volatile organic compound (VOC) contamination in groundwater underneath and downgradient of the facility. NJDEP, in consultation with EPA, selected the remedy for the site’s groundwater contaminant plume in a September 1996 Record of Decision, or ROD. It called for modification of the existing groundwater remediation system to provide for the complete capture and treatment of groundwater contamination, the installation of an air stripper to remove VOCs, and the incorporation of the electrochemical unit into the remedy to remove metals. Further delineation was conducted to fully define the extent of chromium and VOC contamination.
EPA is addressing the site using three separate components called operable units (OUs).
OU1 work included a supplemental remedial investigation/feasibility study (RI/FS) to address the delineation and cleanup of all contaminants, except perchlorate, found in groundwater and includes all activity necessary to complete the supplemental investigation study and, if necessary, a remedial design of the existing selected remedy set forth in the 1996 ROD. The supplemental RI for OU1 was conducted between October 19 and December 7, 2010. The primary purpose of the OU1 supplemental RI was to delineate the downgradient extent of chromium and volatile organic compounds, primarily trichloroethene, in groundwater. The OU1 supplemental investigation report was approved by EPA in February 2014. A ROD Amendment was issued on September 30, 2015 changing the existing pump-and-treat remedy to in-situ remediation, monitored natural attenuation, institutional controls, long-term monitoring, and five-year reviews.
OU2 work included a supplemental RI/FS to address the completion of a full characterization of the nature and extent of the all contaminants, except perchlorate, found in the soil, surface water and sediment at the site, and completion of the development and evaluation of potential remedial alternatives. The supplemental RI/FS for OU2 was conducted in January 2012. The results of the RI/FS are documented in the April 2013 RI report and the May 2014 FS report. A ROD for OU2 was issued on September 25, 2014. The OU2 ROD selected capping facility soils at the SMC facility, excavating sediments from the Hudson Branch and institutional controls. An Administrative Settlement Agreement and Order on Consent for the OU2 Remedial Design was signed on March 10, 2015. The final design for the OU2 remedy is being reviewed by EPA. A legal agreement was signed with Shieldalloy Metallurgical Corporation on November 16, 2016 to perform a cleanup of the contaminated soil, sediment, surface water, and a modified cleanup measure for the groundwater. The cleanup was initiated in June 2018 and is expected to be completed in March 2020.
The OU2 cleanup was conducted in four phases:
Phase 1 consisted of excavation of the Hudson Branch sediment near the SMC Facility and capping of the contaminated soil in the Eastern Storage Areas on the SMC Facility; Phase 2 consisted of excavation of Hudson Branch sediment near the Car Wash; Phase 3 consisted of Excavation of Hudson Branch sediment near the Farm Parcel; and Phase 4 consisted of excavation of Hudson Branch sediment at the intersection of Arbor and Northwest Avenue.
The OU2 Final Design Report was conditionally approved by EPA in June 2017. Subsequently, a radiological screening survey of Phase 1 and 2 areas of the Hudson Branch sediment performed by SMC indicated that some areas contained radioactivity that slightly exceeded the NJDEP’s most restrictive standards for soil. These areas are located within and slightly beyond the areas of metals contaminated sediment that must be removed as part of the OU2 remedial activities. Based on these findings, the OU2 Remedial Design Report was amended to include additional excavation and waste screening and handling requirements for the sediment. Phase 3 and 4 areas were similarly surveyed. Because of the presence of radioactivity mixed with the contamination in the sediments, During the cleanup EPA worked closely with NJDEP to coordinate the OU2 cleanup work with activities required for site decommissioning under SMC’s Radioactive Materials License. As part of site decommissioning activities, a rail spur was installed at the site by SMC during summer of 2019.The contaminated Hudson Branch materials were excavated and temporarily placed in a lined staging area located within a “restricted area” at the SMC Facility. Trucks transported the excavated material from the different areas of OU2 into the staging area in preparation for transportation by rail cars to an appropriate licensed off-site disposal facility. The first rail cars transporting OU2 waste were sent on October 14, 2019.
OU3 work includes a RI/FS to address the completion of a full characterization of the nature and extent of the perchlorate contamination found in any media at the site and completion of the development and evaluation of potential remedial alternatives. The initial phase of the OU3 remedial investigation to delineate the perchlorate contamination in soil, sediments, surface water and groundwater was conducted between October and December 2009. A second round of groundwater sampling was completed in September 2010 and the installation of one additional monitoring well was completed in April 2011. The OU3 human health risk assessment was submitted and was approved by EPA.
SMC, with EPA oversight, is currently performing a supplemental RI to provide current data that will be utilized for selection of a remedy, including the Development and Screening of Response Alternative and the Feasibility Study. Sampling of existing well is tentatively scheduled for November 2019.