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EPA Cleanup Restores Gloucester, New Jersey Ballfield and Puts People to Work

Release Date: 11/01/2011
Contact Information: Elias Rodriguez (212) 637-3664, rodriguez.elias@epa.gov

(New York, N.Y.) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced the successful cleanup and restoration of the once contaminated William Flynn Veterans Sports Complex in Gloucester City, New Jersey, which is part of the Welsbach/General Gas Mantle Superfund site in Camden County. EPA Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck was joined by Congressmember Robert E. Andrews and Gloucester City Mayor William P. James at a ribbon-cutting ceremony in Gloucester City to officially reopen the park and return it to the community. The use of radioactive thorium in the manufacture of gas lamps at the former Welsbach Company in Gloucester and the General Gas Mantle facility in Camden caused the contamination of numerous properties in both cities. The $25 million cleanup at the sports complex and the ongoing cleanup of the Superfund site put 330 people to work last year. Since November 2000, EPA has invested more than $200 million in the cleanup of the Welsbach/ General Gas Mantle facilities and surrounding properties.

“Protecting our environment creates jobs and makes our communities healthier places to live in,” said EPA Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck. “The cleanup at the Gloucester sports complex removed the radioactive contamination that threatened people’s health, put people to work and returned an important recreational resource to the community.

In 2010, Superfund site cleanups created about 1,500 jobs in New Jersey. More than 90% of the people filling the 330 jobs at the Welsbach Gas Mantle site came from the local area. In spring 2009, EPA received $22 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds for the ongoing cleanup of the Welsbach site in Camden, and $6 million in funds for the design of future cleanup activities in Camden and Gloucester City.

The Welsbach Company and the General Gas Mantle Company used the radioactive material thorium from the late 1890s to 1941 to make the gas lamps manufactured at the facilities glow brighter. It is believed that thorium-contaminated waste from the manufacturing process was used as fill in surrounding areas. As a result, the soil and buildings on the Welsbach and General Gas Mantle properties, as well as surrounding properties, were contaminated.

The William Flynn Veterans Sports Complex includes three baseball fields, a football practice field and parking area. A total of 39,820 tons of radiologically contaminated soil were removed from the complex and disposed of at an approved facility licensed to receive radiological waste. EPA worked closely with Gloucester City officials and the local sport teams to create a temporary baseball field and a practice football field near Johnson Boulevard. During the cleanup and restoration, the EPA made numerous improvements to the ball fields, including making the fields handicap accessible, using energy-efficient lighting and installing new dugouts and fencing. In addition to the work at the complex, EPA removed and safely disposed of radiologically contaminated soil from the Gloucester City Land Preserve nearby.

EPA’s cleanup work in the city of Camden is also in full gear. More than 46,000 tons of radiologically contaminated soil have been removed from various contaminated areas, including residences, commercial properties and roadways. Additionally, EPA has designated $3 million to begin a new phase of work at the Gloucester City port complex to remove contaminated soil.

EPA added the Welsbach/General Gas Mantle site to the federal Superfund list in 1996. Because of the nature, size, and complexity of the site, EPA divided the investigation and cleanup into multiple phases. In 1999, EPA selected a plan for the first phase of the cleanup, which included the excavation and off-site disposal of radiologically contaminated soil and building materials, and backfilling of the areas with clean soil. To date, EPA has removed more than 200,000 cubic yards of radiologically contaminated soil and building materials from more than 140 properties in the Gloucester City and Camden areas and has investigated more than 900 properties. The cleanup has kick-started redevelopment of the area.

The EPA has a web page on the site at: http://www.epa.gov/region2/superfund/npl/welsbach.

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