The U.S. EPA will remove over two-thousand containers and drums of hazardous materials from the Superior Barrel & Drum Company facility in Elk Township, NJ. Once removed, the containers and drums will be sent away for proper disposal.
The Superior Barrel and Drum site supposedly operated as a drum recycling and reconditioning business to clean and recondition drums for disposal, resale, or reuse. In August 2013 the EPA found “thousands of drums and containers at the site abandoned and left in a state of disrepair. Many had holes, missing tops, bulging on the sides or bottoms or were leaking their contents onto the ground.”
The EPA was contacted by the NJDEP after it received complaints about the number of drums on the site. EPA has been working for more than four months to “bring conditions at the site under control and work toward the removal of the containers and hazardous materials.”
NJDEP Commissioner Bob Martin stated that the NJDEP is grateful to EPA for its work on the site, and that the NJDEP will assist the EPA “in any way possible to ensure it no longer poses a threat to public health or welfare,” Martin also noted that “After initially working with us to remove drums and waste, the owner of this facility ran away from his obligations and allowed conditions to deteriorate rapidly. This type of behavior is unacceptable and will not be tolerated anywhere in New Jersey. ”
At first, the owner of the facility agreed to initiate a plan to improve conditions at the site, but actual efforts were slow, and the NJDEP took action against the company. In August, 2013, it became clear to the NJDEP that the owner of the site did not intend to address problems at the facility. At that point, the NJDEP formally requested assistance from the EPA.
Though the owner of the site refused to grant access to the site, the EPA was able to obtain warrants to enter the property to conduct cleanup work. Sampling onsite revealed that the drums and containers contained hazardous materials such as benzene, toluene, TCE, ethylbenzene, xylenes, PCBs and lead. As the EPA notes, exposure to these pollutants can have significant negative health effects on humans. Benzene, for example, is a known carcinogen, and PCBs are likely to be carcinogens.
EPA has obtained other necessary warrants to continue cleanup on the site. It is in the process of removing and transporting the contaminants for proper disposal. EPA will continue to work with local and state authorities to ensure that removal of the hazardous materials is done properly and safely. EPA will also continue to monitor conditions onsite and to search for parties that are legally responsible for the contamination in order to hold them accountable for the costs incurred. So far, EPA has spent about $800,000 on the investigation and cleanup process.
For more information about EPA’s work at the Superior Barrel & Drum site (including photos), go to: http://epa.gov/region02/