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EPA Finishes Successful Cleanup of Hazardous Chemicals from New Jersey Facility

Release Date: 09/14/2009
Contact Information: Sophia Kelley (212) 637-3670, kelley.jessicasophia@epa.gov or Beth Totman (212) 637-3662, totman.elizabeth@epa.gov

(New York, N.Y.) It took a court order, a bomb squad and months of around-the-clock work by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), but now the Abrachem Chemical facility in Clifton, New Jersey is completely cleaned up. Abrachem Chemical, a former bulk chemical packaging facility, had been storing over 1,600 abandoned, mislabeled and mishandled drums containing hazardous chemicals that posed serious risks to the surrounding community, as well as the environment. Thanks to EPA’s work, the site is cleaned up and no longer poses a threat.

“This site was a horrible mess when EPA first stepped in,” said George Pavlou, Acting Regional Administrator. “It reeked of caustic chemicals and solvents, some of which were leaking from rusted drums. Despite the difficult nature of handling drums that in most cases contained unknown chemicals, EPA was able to get the job done by working closely with the local and state authorities, which were extremely helpful in the successful cleanup.”

An initial investigation in late 2008 revealed that Abrachem was improperly storing drums and bulk containers of known and unknown chemicals in seventeen, 43-foot long shipping containers. EPA observed that drums were leaking, and a strong chemical odor emanated from the facility. After being denied further access, a federal magistrate issued an access warrant to EPA in January 2009 to initiate a response action at the facility. EPA and its contractor, Earth Tech Inc., deployed personnel to stabilize the site and staged supplies and air monitoring equipment while preparing for the removal of more than 1,600 drums of hazardous chemicals.

Work included removing the drums of unknown chemicals from the shipping containers and moving them into the facility for staging and sampling to determine the nature of the chemicals. Workers needed to wear protective suits that would safeguard them from hazardous chemicals. Over the course of the seven-month cleanup, EPA had to call for assistance from local and state authorities when unknown chemicals were discovered that had the characteristics of explosive chemicals.

EPA not only identified the chemicals in the mislabeled drums, but also, when possible, identified where the drums had originated. Hundreds of the containers were given back to the various companies of origination, while others were disposed of by EPA at licensed hazardous waste disposal facilities. The floors inside the facility have been washed and decontaminated and all debris and trash have been removed.

If EPA determines that a site that contains abandoned chemicals presents an immediate and substantial threat to public health and safety, the Agency can take immediate action. These short term actions are authorized by the Superfund law. This case was referred to EPA by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, with which EPA worked very closely during the entire removal action. The assistance and mutual cooperation between EPA, its state counterparts, and the Clifton Fire Department was instrumental in the timely completion of this successful cleanup.

For more information about the Abrachem site, visit http://www.epa.gov/region02/superfund/removal/abrachem/. For more information about cleanup projects conducted by EPA, visit http://www.epa.gov/region02/cleanup.

Follow EPA Region 2 on Twitter at http://twitter.com/eparegion2 and Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/eparegion2.

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