Toxic Site Flooding: Irene’s Hidden Disaster Potential

Saturday, August 27, 2011

by Bob Makin, MY CENTRAL JERSEY, August 26, 2011

Chemical plant stacks silhouette Despite assurances from the U.S. Department of Environmental Protection, several environmental groups on Friday called on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to take emergency measures to secure leaking toxic waste chemical lagoons at Pfizer’s American Cyanamid Superfund Site along the Raritan River in the township as Hurricane Irene bears down on New Jersey and the East Coast this weekend.

The environmental groups include NY/NJ Baykeeper, the New Jersey chapter of Sierra Club, Raritan Riverkeeper and Edison Wetlands Association, which, this year found that the lagoons were leaking benzene and other toxic chemicals into the Raritan River at more than 20,000 times greater than the cleanup standard. The EPA has ordered Pfizer to stop the chemical lagoons from leaking into several creeks, brooks and the river.

Edison Wetlands since has collected more than 715 signatures on a petition calling for the EPA and Pfizer to immediately clean up the lagoons.

“The USEPA must immediately send engineers out to the leaking chemical lagoon to take whatever measures possible to prevent their total collapse during this weekend’s forecasted hurricane,” said Robert Spiegel, executive director of Edison Wetlands Association. “This area is subject to flooding and drains into the town of Bound Brook, which is notoriously flood-prone and presents a potentially catastrophic health and safety risk. These very dangerous chemicals are leaking under normal conditions, and it is critical that the USEPA protect the citizens of Bound Brook and nearby communities from the risk of overflowing toxic lagoons.”

EPA spokesman Mary Mears responded: “We have taken all steps necessary to secure the American Cyanamid site. EPA has been working all week to make sure that the contractor on site is ready for Hurricane Irene to impact the site. As a result, the contractors have done everything they can to secure the site and have brought in equipment and other items that could be needed in case there is any issue at the site. This equipment includes an excavator, roll-off containers (to recovery material), pumps and sand bags. They also have a contractor on emergency standby to respond immediately to any issues. Our project manager, who is, of course, trained as an emergency responder, is in regular contact with the contractors and will closely monitor the situation.” [Read full article]

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