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Raritan Valley Group > Archive > American Cyanamid Superfund Site
The American Cyanamid superfund site (435 acres) between the Somerset Patriots baseball field and the Raritan River in Bridgewater. They produced a variety of chemical products from 1915 to 1999
Although originally a manufacturer of agricultural chemicals, American Cyanamid's product line was soon broadened into many different types of industrial chemicals and specialty chemicals. The company then diversified into synthetic fibers, pharmaceuticals, surgical products, plastics, and inorganic pigments prior to World War II; and later added, by acquisitions, cosmetic and toiletry products, perfumes, building products, home building, and several smaller product categories following WWII.
The site contains 27 waste disposal areas, referred to as "impoundments", which were used for disposal of various chemical sludges and other wastes. Investigations conducted by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) and the potentially responsible party (PRP) of record have documented groundwater and soil contamination.
Out of 27 impoundments identified at the site, 16 were deemed necessary to be addressed under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) (Otherwise known as Superfund). The other 11 impoundments were either never used, contain only river silt from the facility's former river water treatment plant, contain emergency fire water, have been closed or are being closed in accordance with approved Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) closure plans. The 16 CERCLA-classified impoundments were used for storing by-products of rubber chemical production, dye production, coal tar distillation and/or the disposal of general plant waste and demolition debris. These impoundments have been estimated to contain 877,000 tons of waste material, consisting primarily of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as benzene, chlorobenzene, toluene and xylene, semi-VOCs (SVOCs) such as benzene, chlorobenzene, toluene and xylene, and inorganics and metals such as antimony, arsenic, barium, beryllium, cadmium, chromium, copper, lead, mercury, nickel, selenium, silver and vanadium.
As of the Fall of 2012, 6 Impoundments have been cleaned up. 2 Impoundments were in the process of being cleaned up with an end date of 2020. 6 Were included in the recommended Plan 4A presented in March 2012 with a time frame of 10 years. It is currently in the remedial design phase. 2 Are going thru a Focused Feasibility Study from Dec. 2013 to Mar 2014 The results of this study will be analyzed to recommend a solution with an undetermined time schedule.At least 650,000 gallons of groundwater are being pumped out each day for treatment
The company merged with American Home Products in 1994. At that time, the purchase price, $9.5 billion, made it the second-largest industrial acquisition in US history.
In 1998, EPA deleted 140 acres of the site from the Superfund list and the property was redeveloped for commercial use (retail stores, a professional baseball stadium, and a commuter/stadium parking lot).
In the Fall of 2010, Pfizer representatives observed seepage along the banks of the Raritan River, which were found to contain benzene. A groundwater removal system including a collection trench, a containment wall and an interim groundwater treatment system was completed in May 2012, although representatives from the Edison Wetlands Association and the New Jersey Sierra Club said at the time that the system would not do the job.
Flooding after Hurricane Irene:
According to an article at, http://www.mycentraljersey.com/article/20110905/NJNEWS/309040011/ The lagoons have been seeping carcinogenic benzene 20,000 times regulatory levels all year into the Raritan River, according to the EPA, which has collected samples of floodwaters from the 400-acre site after hurricane Irene in 2011. Results should be known soon, spokesman Elias Rodriguez said.
According to EPA spokesperson Bonnie Bellow, about 200 million gallons of water flooded the property and electricity was "totally knocked out" by the storms.
"USEPA must act immediately and take over this investigation and clean up in order to protect the families of Central Jersey," said Robert Spiegel, executive director of Edison Wetlands Association, the environmental organization that discovered the lagoons' benzene leak.
Jeff Tittel, executive director of the New Jersey chapter of Sierra Club, agreed.
"The EPA, instead of taking samples, should be taking remedial action to clean up this toxic mess," Tittel said. "Pollution from this site has impacted the river in the past and is doing it again. We need action, not studies, to protect us from this pollution at this site. EPA fiddles, while American Cyanamid leaks."
Recent flooding: Hurricanes Irene , Sandy  and Floyd  and a 2007 Nor'easter.
Seepage water at the river bank downgradient of the impoundments was tested in late 2010 for a wide range of contaminants, and benzene, a VOC, was detected at 20 parts per million (20 ppm). In the spring of 2011, as a temporary remedial measure and by order of EPA, Pfizer placed bags filled with activated carbon at the seep discharge points along the river to prevent the contaminated water from reaching the river. Sampling of the surface water from the Raritan River conducted in June 2011 showed less than 10 parts per billion (10 ppb) benzene and low levels of semi-volatile organic compounds (SVOCs) and inorganic compounds. Source: 2011 NJDEP and EPA report
On March 8, 2012 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had a public hearing on a proposal to clean up part of the site. See more on the March 2012 meeting below
On September 27, 2012, the EPA issued its final plan to address contaminated soil, ground water and six waste disposal areas at the site.
On March 21, 2013 the EPA announced a legal agreement with Wyeth Holdings Corporation, a subsidiary of the Pfizer Corporation, to perform pre-construction design work, an initial step in the cleanup.
The chemicals embedded in the soil include naphthalene and high concentrations of benzene, said Rick Chambers, Pfizer (current owner) spokesman. The site is dotted by chemical sludge lagoons, many inundated by storms over the years. Late last year, high levels of benzene in the southeast portion of the site were found to be seeping into the nearby Raritan River. In response, Pfizer quickly put in place activated carbon sandbags to act as a barrier, Chambers said. Contaminated water is being treated, he said.
That system will be replaced by a longer-term solution - an interceptor trench, according to the company.
At least 650,000 gallons of groundwater are being pumped out each day for treatment, EPA spokesman John Martin said.
"This thing has moved along at a glacial pace," said Walt Sodie of the environmental watchdog group CRISIS, that the EPA funds in order to facilitate citizen participation in the Superfund process
They still have concerns with the principal threat waste materials and long-range plans for treating groundwater.
Although the site was added to the Superfund clean-up list in 1982, the new proposal does not include measures to clean up two of the sludge lagoons, which EPA plans to address separately.
The soil at the site will be addressed using three different methods depending on the extent of the pollution in the soil. Soil that consists of tarry material or is highly toxic, similar to the waste within Impoundment 3, 4, and 5, will be excavated and combined with the material in the three impoundments. It will be treated with the existing waste in Impoundments 3, 4 and 5. Soil that contains volatile and semi-volatile organic compounds will be covered with a vapor control barrier and mitigation system to prevent the release of vapors into the air. Soil that has a lower level of pollution will be covered by a 24-inch thick engineered cap that will serve as a barrier that prevents direct contact. Additionally, the EPA will conduct an ecological study of the waste in Impoundments 13, 17 and 24, which are located in the flood plain of the site, to determine the appropriate treatment for these materials.
In August 2013, residents near the still-polluted 435-acre portion of the former chemical and pharmaceutical manufacturing site near the Bound Brook border should expect to see increased activity, including site preparation and construction, for a field study about the eventual remediation of the entire site, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency.
A site-wide cleanup approach has been approved by EPA, but impoundments 1 and 2 were not included due to their complex nature and proximity to the Raritan River. The pilot study will provide recommendations to EPA on how to clean up these impoundments.
March 2012 meeting:
The EPA had a a public hearing in March 2012 where they described 11 options they studied, which cost from zero to $1.7 billion and recommended plan 4a which would cost $204 million.
Figure 4 Diagram
The 16 polluted impoundments are 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 11, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 24 and 26.
The site was originally divided into seven Operable Units (OUs), as follows:
OU1: Impoundments 11, 13, 19, and 24
OU2: Impoundments 15, 16, 17, and 18
OU3: Impoundments 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 14, 20 and 26
OU4: Site Soils
OU5: Site Groundwater
OU6: Hill Property
OU7: Site-related Wetlands
A Corrective Measures Study/Feasibility Study (CMS/FS) was completed
in Nov 1993
The remaining contaminated impoundments were addressed as follows:
A September 2012 ROD (Record of decision) was published. It included:
for OU4 (Site soils).
Don't let Pfizer fill a floodplain with toxic waste! YouTube video from New Green Media
The Sierra Club recommended signing the Edison Wetlands Environment Petition: Stop toxic cancer-causing chemicals from seeping into the Raritan River! | Change.org. It got 2,175 supporters.
March 2012 meeting notes by Don:
Before the meeting Spiegel and NJ Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel held a press conference where they said the polluted soil must be treated, not just contained, because the entire site floods during heavy rainfall.
There was quite a lively discussion at the EPA meeting on the American Cyanamid superfund site cleanup last night, with about 150 in attendance.
Jeff Tittel testified with his usual eloquence. Several of Jane's friends from the Edison Wetlands also testified. I and another Raritan Valley group member also attended and signed in as Sierra Club representatives.
The EPA studied 11 options which cost from zero to $1.7 billion and recommended plan 4a which would cost $204 million.
They extended the period for comments to May 15.
Apparently the EPA took over remediation of the site over from the NJ DEP, because of problems/inaction. I don't know the details.
There were two sides to the comments. They seem to have gotten to some local citizen groups and the Bridgewater Mayor who supported their plan.
Jeff, the Edison Wetlands group and others pointed out that because of the constant flooding (Hurricanes Irene  and Floyd  and a 2007 Nor'easter) the EPA proposal to cap many areas of the site would not be long term solutions. The flooding would scour the caps according to Jeff, and you'd see them eventually floating down the Raritan River.
There was also concern the current plan calls for reducing benzene output from the ground water treatment plants from 13 ppb to 7 ppb, when save levels are considered to be 0.15 ppb.
The current plan does not cover two of the sludge lagoons, which will be addressed in a separate plan next year.
Walter Mugdan, EPA Division Director of Superfund sites, said it will take a couple of years to develop their plan and 10 years to complete it.
News Articles on March 8th meeting:
October 2013 Meeting Nancy Gladfelter and Don McBride attended this information session, which described a Focused Feasibility Study (FFS) for Impoundments 1 and 2. They were not included in previous plans because of their proximity to the Raritan River and their unique contents described as a as a viscous rubbery substance and a hard crumbly substance.
The FFS will occur from Dec. 2013 to Mar 2014 and provide data for a long term plan.
The Focused Feasibility Study (FFS) for Impoundments 1 and 2 is to test two methods of neutralizing/removing the contaminants in Impounds 1 and2. They were not included in the March 2012 hearing attended by Jeff Tittel, Roomi and Don, "due to their complex nature and proximity to the Raritan River."
The impoundments are currently protected by clay linings on the side and bottom and a synthetic cap with water above on the top.
The two main pollutants were described as,
The FFS will put down two 7 ft diameter cylinders to try two mitigation methods. 1. Heating to vaporize the chemicals and burning them capturing any toxic vapors 2. Solidification using things like hydrolyzed lime and portland cement.
The effectiveness of these two approaches would be evaluated to come up with a final solution.
Most of the session was devoted to describing safety measures to avoid any accidental release of toxic substances or gasses.
When asked how they will scale up the 38 sq ft test to the100,000 sq ft (2.3 acre) ponds, they had no answer.
ARARs - Applicable or Relevant and Appropriate Requirement BCOC - Bridgewater Cyanamid Oversight Committee BERA - Baseline Ecological Risk Assessment CEA - Dlassification exception area CERCLA - Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act - Commonly known as Superfund. CMS/FS - Corrective Measures Study/Feasibility Study EPA - Environmental Protection Agency - Fed FS - Feasibility Study HHRA - Human Health Risk Assessment LTTD - Low Temperature Thermal Desorption NJDEP - New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection National NRRB - EPA's National Remedy Review Board PAHs - polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons PCBs - polychlorinated biphenyls PRP - potentially responsible party RCRA - Resource Conservation and Recovery Act ROD - Record of Decision S/S - Solidification/Stabilization SRVSA - Somerset Raritan Valley Sewerage Authority SVOCs - Semi-VOCs SWFS - Comprehensive Site-wide Feasibility Study TAG - Technical Assistance Grant VOCs - Volatile organic compounds WRA -Well restriction area Contacts and Interested Parties:
NJDEP Report 2011
Last updated 10/29/2013