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EPA Announces Measures to Protect Raritan River from Ground Water Contamination Seeping from the American Cyanamid Superfund Site in Bridgewater Township, N.J.

Release Date: 07/19/2011
Contact Information: Elias Rodriguez, 212-637-3664, rodriguez.elias@epa.gov

(New York, N.Y.) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced an agreement with the Wyeth Holdings Corporation, a subsidiary of Pfizer Inc., to install a system for collecting and treating contaminated ground water from the American Cyanamid Superfund Site in Bridgewater Township, Somerset County, N.J. The agreement requires design and construction of this system to prevent contaminated ground water from seeping into the Raritan River, Cuckhold’s Brook and Middle Brook. A trench along the Raritan River will be constructed as an interim solution to block, capture and prevent ground water from seeping into the river. Ground water contamination is believed to be partly coming from two impoundments which are the focus of a separate study intended to offer a long-term remedial solution to the problem. The water captured in the trench will be treated and disposed of properly. Ground water at the site will be tested to evaluate its impact on the water quality of the Raritan River.

“This agreement requires the company to build a system that will protect the Raritan River and the people who enjoy it,” said EPA Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck. “When this seepage problem was first identified, a system was installed on the Raritan River bank using activated carbon to mitigate the contamination as an emergency temporary solution. Now we are requiring this further step to prevent further contamination in the near-term while seeking a comprehensive cleanup for this site in the long-term.”

The American Cyanamid Superfund site has a legacy of industrial pollution dating back to 1915. For nearly 100 years, prior owners used the location for manufacturing chemicals. EPA has supervised the long-term cleanup of the site since 1983 when it was placed on the federal Superfund list because hazardous chemicals were found in the soil and ground water. The 435-acre Superfund site contained various areas used for the disposal of chemical sludge and other wastes. In 1998, EPA delisted 140 acres of the site from the Superfund list. That land was made available for redevelopment and now includes the TD Bank Ballpark Stadium. Soil and ground water at the site are contaminated with non-volatile inorganic compounds and volatile organic compounds, which are potentially harmful contaminants that can easily evaporate into the air. Various contaminants were found onsite including benzene, which is a cancer-causing chemical. The site, located on the Raritan River, is secured, largely fenced off and access is restricted. Since 2009, Pfizer Inc. assumed responsibility for the American Cyanamid Superfund site as part of its purchase of the Wyeth Holding Corporation.

Many volatile organic compounds are known to cause cancer in animals. Some cause cancer in people, while other volatile organic compounds have no known health effects. Like other pollutants, the extent and nature of the health effect will depend on many factors, including the level and length of exposure. Eye and respiratory tract irritation, headaches, dizziness, visual disorders, and memory impairment are among the immediate symptoms that some people have experienced soon after exposure to some organics. Previous site investigations have found ground water underlying the site, not considered a source of drinking water, is highly contaminated with metals and volatile organic compounds, such as benzene, chlorobenzene, ethylbenzene, xylene. Exposure to these chemicals can significantly harm human health.

Under today’s agreement, Wyeth will install a system designed to block, intercept and capture contamination from seeping ground water that could impact the Raritan River, Cuckhold’s Brook and Middle Brook. Wyeth has also agreed to perform two studies. These studies will determine the movement of the contaminated ground water through the affected area of the site to discover if there are additional impacts to the water bodies. Finally, Wyeth agrees to pay all EPA oversight costs for this action starting from the effective date of the agreement. In March of this year, Wyeth installed a temporary system on an emergency basis to mitigate the ground water seeping problem by installing a system on the Raritan River bank using activated carbon until a long-term solution could be agreed upon with EPA and constructed by Wyeth.

A web site to inform the community about the site is located at: http://www.amcyrestoration.com.

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