U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck was joined yesterday by Senator Frank R. Lautenberg, Congress Member Bill Pascrell, Jr. and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New York District Commander Col. Paul E. Owen to announce that the W.R. Grace & Co./Wayne Interim Storage site in Wayne Township, New Jersey has been cleaned up and will be taken off the Superfund list of the most hazardous waste sites in the nation.
The site was contaminated by thorium and rare earth metals, which can have serious effects of people’s health. Studies have shown that inhaling thorium dust causes an increased risk of developing lung cancer, and cancer of the pancreas. The EPA has made a final decision to remove the site from the Superfund list after a review of conditions confirmed that it no longer poses a threat to people’s health and the environment. Some of the cleanup was conducted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers with oversight by the EPA.
“The removal of a site from the Superfund list is a significant achievement,” said EPA Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck. “Monitoring has found that the cleanup conducted at this site has removed a significant risk that was posed to this community.”
“The Corps of Engineers is proud to have been the lead agent for the cleanup here at the Wayne Interim Storage Site since 1997 and it’s been a pleasure working as a team of teams with our great partners here like the EPA and our other federal, state and local partners,” said U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New York District Commander Col. Paul E. Owen. “It took several years of hard work, including the safe removal and disposal of approximately 135,000 cubic yards of contaminated material, and I’m proud to be celebrating the fruits of that labor – the de-listing of this site.”
The six-acre site, located at 868 Black Oak Ridge Road in Wayne, NJ, was used by Rare Earths, Inc. between 1948 and 1957 to extract thorium and rare earth metals from monazite ore. In 1957, a division of W.R. Grace & Co. Inc. acquired the facility and continued to process monazite ore at the site until 1971. Radioactive waste and contaminated building rubble were stored in approximately 16 burial pits on the site.
The U.S. Department of Energy managed the site from 1984 to 1997, when it was transferred to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Corps cleaned dug up and properly disposed of contaminated soil from the site and from a number of properties in the immediate area. The Corps also decontaminated and demolished a processing building on the site and removed and treated contaminated ground water near the areas that were excavated. It also instituted a program to monitor the site to ensure that the work was successful. The work was completed in 2003 and the site was transferred to Wayne Township in 2006.
Once a cleanup is complete, the EPA conducts reviews every five years to evaluate if the completed work is protective of human health and the environment. Based on the EPA’s five-year review, completed in 2008, and a final report, the EPA, the Corps and the state of New Jersey determined that the cleanup was successful and no further actions or reviews are needed.
Press Release, September 26, 2012