Superfund Information Systems: Site Profile

Superfund Site:

ROEBLING STEEL CO.
FLORENCE, NJ

Cleanup Activities

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Background

The Roebling Steel Company site is located next to the Delaware River in Florence Township, New Jersey. The 200-acre area is a former manufacturing plant for steel and wire products. The Roebling Steel Company produced steel wire and cable at the site for many years before closing in the 1980s. Parts of the site were later used for other commercial and industrial operations, such as housing polymer reclamation, storing insulating products, refurbishing refrigerated trailers and shipping containers, and construction equipment storage. The raw materials and waste products that these operations produced were stored or buried in several on-site locations. These waste disposal practices contaminated the soil, sediment and groundwater.

Seventy buildings occupied much of the site. Buildings on site contained contaminated process dust, exposed asbestos, and liquid and solid wastes from equipment, tanks, piping, pits and sumps. The site included two inactive sludge lagoons and an abandoned landfill. Soil all around the site is contaminated with heavy metals such as lead, chromium and cadmium. River and creek sediments and wetlands were contaminated with heavy metals such as lead, chromium and copper, and hazardous oils and tars. Groundwater under the site is sporadically contaminated with various heavy metals, including arsenic, lead and copper in a small number of wells. Following initial actions to protect human health and the environment, EPA is addressing the site’s long-term cleanup in stages. Under current conditions at the site, groundwater migration is under control.

 

In 1904, construction of the steel plant began. In addition to the steel plant, a complete town for the workers was built to house a population of about 4,000 people. Over time, buildings were constructed as needed, many on the slag fill. The John A. Roebling's Sons Company owned and operated the plant until its sale to Colorado Fuel and Iron Company, later known as CF&I Steel Corporation, in 1952. The surrounding village of Roebling and the Main Gate Building at the original entrance to the plant have been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1978.

CF&I operated the site until 1974. Crane Company became the major stockholder in CF&I in the late 1960s and subsequently began a shutdown of unprofitable production facilities. By the early 1970s, the Roebling facility's financial strength had declined, and Crane Company decided to close the facility in 1974. The Alpert Brothers Leasing Company (ABLC) purchased the machinery and equipment at the site from CF&I in September 1974. ABLC formed the Roebling Steel and Wire Corporation (RSWC), which purchased the site and certain other equipment from CF&I in October 1974. RSWC filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in May 1975. ABLC/RSWC operated the facility until May 1979, when it was purchased by the John A. Roebling Steel Corporation (JARSCO), a new company, with new owners. JARSCO ceased operations in November 1981 and leased portions of the site to other businesses. JARSCO began liquidating in September 1982 and granted peaceful possession of the property to the EDA in April 1983.
 

The Roebling Wire Company (RWC) purchased the wire mill equipment from JARSCO and leased the wire mill premises. RWC began wire production in January 1982, closed in the summer of 1983, filed for bankruptcy, but continued to occupy site premises until October 1985.


From 1978 through 1988, the site supported a variety of other industrial activities, including a polymer reclamation facility, a storage facility for vinyl products, a warehouse facility, a facility for repairing and refurbishing refrigerated trailers and shipping containers, a storage facility for insulation, and an equipment storage facility for a construction company.


The EDA provided financial assistance to JARSCO starting in 1979 to promote companies and businesses on the site; all of these companies have since ceased operating on site. EDA was a creditor in possession of the real property and equipment at the site until the property was turned over to Florence Township as a result of the February 2001 condemnation proceeding.
 

The lack of properly operated environmental control facilities at the site over the last 25 years resulted in several regulatory agencies issuing notices of noncompliance to site owners and operators. In May 1968, the New Jersey Department of Health ordered CF&I to cease polluting the Delaware River and construct a wastewater treatment plant. In 1972, the wastewater treatment plant was completed and placed into operation.

On June 13, 1979, the JARSCO operation was inspected by NJDEP and the Burlington County Health Department. Six hundred 55-gallon drums containing waste oil were discovered on site. NJDEP requested the removal of these drums. In November 1979, JARSCO was cited for committing health and safety violations as it attempted to remove the drums from the site.

On January 29, 1980, NJDEP named JARSCO as one of the 38 hazardous waste sites most urgently needing cleanup in the State of New Jersey. In 1981, JARSCO was cited for noncompliance of its wastewater treatment plant. On May 11, 1981, EPA performed a RCRA inspection of the facility and JARSCO was cited for storage of baghouse dust without a permit. NJDEP sampled the sludge lagoons and found them to contain VOCs and heavy metals. On July 22, 1981, JARSCO removed 20,000 gallons of waste oil and 60 cubic yards of contaminated soil from the site.

In June 1982, NJDEP required installation of three groundwater monitoring wells near the lagoons. On June 28, 1982, EPA issued a Complaint and Compliance Order that directed JARSCO to stop storing hazardous waste without a permit, to remove spilled dust and contaminated soil, and to address contaminant migration. In February 1983, JARSCO officially abandoned the site without sufficiently addressing the permit compliance violations first cited in 1981.

After site investigations, EPA placed the site on the Superfund program’s National Priorities List in September 1983.


 

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What Has Been Done to Clean Up the Site?

Initial Actions: In December 1985, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) packaged and removed picric acid and other chemicals found in the labs and shipped them to an approved treatment facility. In October 1987, EPA undertook a major removal action at the site. It included the removal of lab pack containers and drums containing corrosive and toxic materials, acid tanks, and compressed gas cylinders. EPA did another removal action in October 1990. It included fencing a portion of the slag area and removing contaminated soil from Northwest Park. In October 1998, EPA began a site-wide removal action for asbestos mitigation in about 70 abandoned buildings and exterior piping across the site. The asbestos mitigation finished in November 1999.


First Remedial Action: EPA selected a remedy to address remaining high hazard sources of contamination, such as transformers contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), baghouse dust and chemical piles, additional drums and tanks, tires, and contaminated soils from the adjacent Roebling Park playground, in the site’s March 1990 Record of Decision, or ROD. This remedial action was finished in September 1991.


Second Remedial Action: EPA selected a remedy for parts of Southeast Park, located next to the steel plant, in the site’s September 1991 ROD. Excavation and disposal of contaminated soil, and revegetation of these areas, were finished in October 1994.


Third Remedial Action: In September 2003, EPA updated the cleanup plan selected for a 34-acre slag area in 1991. The updated plan includes a soil cover and vegetation, a stormwater drainage system and shoreline revetment to stabilize the slag area. The design plans and drawings for the slag area were modified in September 2010 to accommodate additional volume for the dredged sediments. EPA completed installation of the 3,000-foot shoreline revetment along the slag area in November 2006. In December 2014, EPA completed construction activities for the slag area. This included soil capping and construction of a stormwater drainage system to manage and treat the stormwater from the Village of Roebling.


Fourth Remedial Action: In September 1996, EPA signed the site’s third ROD. EPA selected a remedy that includes removal and disposal of the contents from underground storage tanks and underground piping, asbestos abatement, decontamination and demolition of buildings, recycling or disposal of scrap metal from building debris and contaminated equipment, and off-site disposal of process dust and the contents of aboveground tanks, pits and sumps. Decontamination and demolition of designated buildings began in June 1999 and was completed in May 2011. Additionally, EPA restored the Main Gate House and Ambulance Garage consistent with its responsibilities under the National Historic Preservation Act. Design plans and drawings for the exterior rehabilitation, interior adaptive reuse and rehabilitation, and surrounding soils remediation were completed in March 2005. Construction work on the Main Gate House and remediation of nearby soils was completed in June 2009.


Fifth Remedial Action: EPA signed the site’s fourth ROD in September 2003, selecting a cleanup plan for site-wide soils (including slag area soils), Delaware River and Crafts Creek sediments, and groundwater. The plan includes capping of site-wide contaminated soil, dredging of contaminated sediments in the Delaware River and Crafts Creek, long-term groundwater monitoring, and institutional controls to restrict groundwater use. EPA completed the sediment design plans and drawings in December 2010. Environmental dredging of Crafts Creek sediments began in July 2010. EPA was provided American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds allocated to this site to remove contaminated sediments from the Back Channel Delaware River and Crafts Creek. The sediments are contaminated with varying degrees of metals, including, lead, chromium and copper, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). The project included the following activities: dredging and dewatering contaminated sediments, placement and capping of the sediments in the slag area, stabilization of Back Channel shoreline, and wetland restoration of impacted areas. In June 2013, EPA completed dredging approximately 240,000 cubic yards of sediments from Crafts Creek and the Delaware River Back Channel. Additionally, the wetland areas were restored and a revetment was installed along the entire shoreline.
 

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What Is the Current Site Status?

The site is being addressed in stages: initial actions and three long-term remedial phases have been completed. A number of cleanup actions at the site, including: the removal of contaminated source areas; an asbestos abatement action; onsite building demolition; soil capping; sediment dredging and shoreline stabilization have reduced the potential for exposure to hazardous materials on or off the site. 

Final components of the fourth and fifth remedial phase are under design.  The design for historic preservation mitigation measures of machinery and equipment and the demolition of Buildings 92 and 93 is ongoing. Future plans for implementing construction of the groundwater design completed in September 2016 and the soil capping design (14 acres) completed in September 2019 are anticipated to commence pending availability of federal funding.

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