WELSBACH & GENERAL GAS MANTLE (CAMDEN RADIATION)
CAMDEN AND GLOUCESTER CIT, NJ
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The Welsbach & General Gas Mantle Contamination site is located in the cities of Camden and Gloucester City, New Jersey. The site includes two former incandescent gas mantle manufacturing facilities, as well as nearly 1,000 residential, commercial, industrial and recreational properties. The Welsbach Company manufactured gas mantles at its facility in Gloucester City from the 1890s through the 1940s, while the General Gas Mantle Facility (GGM) operated in Camden from 1912 to 1941. As part of the process to make the gas mantles, the radioactive substance thorium was used to make the mantles glow brighter. Some of the waste materials from the manufacturing process contained the radioactive elements thorium and radium. These elements give off gamma radiation as part of the process of radioactive decay. It is believed that these waste materials were used as fill throughout areas of Gloucester City and Camden. After site investigations, immediate actions were taken to protect human health and the environment. The site’s long-term cleanup is ongoing.
What Has Been Done to Clean Up the Site?
Immediate Actions: In the early 1990s, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) investigated more than 1,100 properties in Camden and Gloucester City for radiological contamination. As a protective measure, NJDEP installed gamma radiation shielding at about 30 properties and radon ventilation systems on three properties. NJDEP also purchased one contaminated residential property and relocated one commercial business. In December 1998, EPA excavated about 260 tons of radiologically contaminated soil from a public park area in Gloucester City and replaced it with clean fill. In September 2001, EPA did another removal action in Gloucester City. EPA removed about 210 tons of radiologically contaminated soils from three residential properties and installed a radon mitigation system on another property.
Soil and Waste Materials: Based on NJDEP's investigations, about 100 properties were identified as being potentially contaminated with radiological materials. In July 1999, EPA selected a remedy for these areas in the site’s July 1999 Record of Decision, or ROD. It included excavation and off-site disposal of radiologically contaminated soil and waste materials, as well as demolition of the GGM building.
Armstrong Building: After a remedial investigation and feasibility study for the Armstrong Building, EPA selected a remedy in the site’s September 2011 ROD. It included decontamination of radiologically contaminated surfaces in the building, along with off-site disposal of the waste materials.
Surface Water, Sediments and Wetlands: After ecological investigations of the South Branch of Newton Creek, Martin’s Lake and parts of the Delaware River next to the site, EPA determined in the site’s July 2005 ROD that no remedial action was necessary.
EPA and NJDEP have reduced immediate risks from the site from gamma radiation by installing shielding at some of the site properties, removing soil contamination on several residential properties and a public park, and demolishing the GGM building in Camden. To address long-term site risks, EPA has investigated close to 950 properties in Camden and Gloucester City and has completed the cleanup on 163 of the nearly 175 properties identified as contaminated. To date, EPA has excavated and disposed of more than 350,000 tons of radiologically contaminated soils and waste materials. These cleanups included removing about 105,000 tons of contaminated soil from Gloucester City Swim Club and adjacent residential properties; about 23,000 tons from the site of a Gloucester City middle school; 35,000 tons from residential properties along Highland Avenue and Klemm Boulevard in Gloucester City; more than 55,000 tons from the General Gas Mantle area in Camden, more than 16,000 tons from residential properties and wetlands areas along Temple Avenue in Gloucester City, and about 130,000 tons from the recreational properties along Johnson Boulevard in Gloucester City.
What Is the Current Site Status?
The site is being addressed in two stages: immediate actions and a long-term remedial phase focused on the entire site. To address the long-term remedial phase, EPA divided the site into four areas, or operable units (OUs) – soils and waste materials, the Armstrong Building, surface water and sediments, and groundwater.
In November 2000, EPA began cleanup activities at the site with the demolition of the GGM building in Camden. Cleanup activities at the site continue to the present day. In June 2015, EPA started cleaning up the radiologically contaminated building surfaces in the Armstrong Building, at the former Welsbach facility in Gloucester City. EPA expects to complete this cleanup in May 2016.
EPA plans to start investigations for site groundwater when cleanup of contaminated soil and waste materials is complete.