The Department of Justice and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) presented a settlement offer this week, to several companies involved in the Pohatcong Valley Groundwater Contamination Superfund site in Warren County, New Jersey. The proposal delegates primary responsibility for soil and groundwater cleanup efforts to Pechiney Plastic Packaging, Inc. (Pechiney), one of the five companies involved in the settlement.
The EPA added the Warren County Pohatcong Valley Groundwater Contamination Superfund site to a Superfund National Priorities list in 1989, due to the detection of elevated levels of organic contaminants in the aquifer, Trichloroethylene (TCE) and perchloroethylene (PCE),both of which can be toxic to humans.
This aquifer provided drinking water to Washington Township, NJ, which could have been affected. Since the detection of the contaminants, public supply wells have been treated to meet drinking water standards before distribution.
EPA will recover civil penalties from Pechiney as part of the settlement, and Pechiney will also be required to cover cleanup and restoration costs, estimated to total about $92.5 million. Approximately 60 acres of land will be preserved, converted to native grassland and used by a "second-chance" program providing young adults with opportunities to earn GEDs and serve their community.
EPA Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck stated, "The settlement advances our cleanup and will help protect drinking water as well as safeguard people's health. The remaining cleanup work at the Pohatcong Valley site will proceed and an area of open space that can be enjoyed by members of the public will be restored and preserved."
The size of the Superfund site has led the EPA to divide the site into three parts, all of which are covered by the settlement agreement.