Meet America's 5 Newest Superfund Sites
On September 9, US EPA added five sites to the Superfund National Priorities List (NPL) with a Final Rule published to the Federal Register. The NPL is a list of locations prioritized for longer-term cleanup action due to contamination with hazardous substances.
Before being added to the NPL, a site must be reported to US EPA as a hazard to human health and the environment. After EPA receives a report, the Agency conducts assessment and inspection, which often includes taking samples of air, water, or soil.
Read more: How Do Sites Get on the Superfund List?
The sites added to the NPL last week illustrate the broad range of locations that may qualify for cleanup and remediation under CERCLA.
The five newest Superfund sites are:
- A groundwater plume in Delaware,
- A downtown area in Iowa,
- A stretch of river in New Jersey,
- A landfill in New York, and
- A fertilizer manufacturing plant in Puerto Rico.
Georgetown North Groundwater Site (Georgetown, DE)
A groundwater plume containing benzene, trichloroethylene (TCE), and perchloroethylene (PCE) has contaminated municipal drinking water wells in the town of Georgetown, DE since the 1980s. A 2020 site inspection detected levels of TCE and PCE above the state’s maximum contaminant levels (MCLs).
The town, which uses groundwater wells for drinking water, has installed equipment and upgraded its water treatment plant to remove contaminants. Drinking water currently meets all Federal and state health standards.
While the cause of the groundwater contamination has yet to be determined, data suggests that chlorinated solvents are migrating from south of the wells. Potential sources of contamination include dry cleaning sites, gas stations, and a coal gasification plant.
Highway 3 PCE Site (Le Mars, IA)
The Highway 3 PCE site encompasses the downtown area of Le Mars, Iowa. Authorities discovered perchloroethylene (PCE) contamination in groundwater samples in 2008. It was determined that the presence of PCE was not associated with a nearby coal gasification plant.
After PCE was detected at levels above health concern in the air inside buildings in Le Mars, EPA initiated a time-critical removal action in 2013. Vapor intrusion mitigation systems were installed in twenty buildings.
EPA has taken samples to investigate the extent of contamination and the source of PCE. The current cleanup effort will address PCE-contaminated soil.
Lower Hackensack River Site (Bergen and Hudson Counties, NJ)
A center of industrial activity for two centuries, the Lower Hackensack River Site has been contaminated by sewage and industrial discharges. Sediments in the nineteen-mile stretch of river are contaminated with arsenic, lead, chromium, mercury, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon compounds (PAHs), and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).
The river runs through many human-inhabited areas, the habitats of 30+ endangered or threatened species, and thousands of acres of wetlands. New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection (NJ DEP) has placed advisories on the river’s recreational and fishing activities.
NJ DEP and US EPA have collaborated to address pollution at the site since at least 2015.
Brillo Landfill (Victory, NY)
As a result of accepting industrial and sanitary wastes, as well as paint and wastewater treatment sludge, now-closed Brillo Landfill is currently contaminated with volatile organic compounds (VOCs), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and metals like lead and mercury.
The affected areas include numerous waste disposal units and surrounding soil. Though immediate action was taken in 2018, the site requires a long-term cleanup to address contamination. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) continues to monitor groundwater potential effects on local private drinking water wells.
Ochoa Fertilizer (Guánica, PR)
The Ochoa Fertilizer Co. site includes a former fertilizer manufacturing facility near Guánica Bay in Puerto Rico which manufactured ammonia, ammonium sulfate, and sulfuric acid beginning in the 1950s.
The company stopped operating on the eastern lot in the late 1960s, but the operations continue on the western lot to the present. The eastern lot’s operations incurred hazardous substance releases that contaminated soil and caused environmental degradation to Guánica Bay; now, there is potential risk of exposure to nearby residents from soil contaminated with mercury, lead, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and other contaminants.
HAZWOPER Training for Site Cleanup
OSHA requires site workers at contaminated cleanup sites to complete 40 hours of initial training and three days of supervised field experience (29 CFR 1910.120(e)(3)(i).
The 40 Hour HAZWOPER Initial—Contaminated Site Cleanup online course is designed to help satisfy the requirement for 40-hour training for site workers at contaminated cleanup sites. The course is available in English and Spanish.
Annual refresher training is also required (29 CFR 1910.120(e)(8).
8 Hour HAZWOPER Refresher—Contaminated Site Cleanup
For “occasional site workers” who perform limited tasks on a contaminated site, OSHA requires 24 hour of initial training and one day of supervised field experience.
These illustrated guides clarify OSHA’s training requirements for employees covered by the HAZWOPER Standard at 29 CFR 1910.120:
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