New groundwater remediation technologies will now be used to treat contaminated groundwater at a Superfund site in New Jersey, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Since the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection initially laid out a plan in 1996 to clean up groundwater contaminated by the Shieldalloy Metallurgical Corp. site in Newfield and Vineland, N.J., the state has used a system that pumped the water out of the earth and treated it externally. The modified EPA plan instead calls for using non-hazardous additives to treat the groundwater without removing it from the ground.
Groundwater at the Shieldalloy site is contaminated with hexavalent chromium and volatile organic compounds from ore and metal processing that took place there between 1955 and 2006. While the state's 1996 groundwater cleanup plan showed initial signs of success using an existing system of pumps to bring the polluted groundwater to the surface where it could be cleaned, contaminant concentrations eventually began leveling off rather than continuing to decrease. Now, cleaning levels will get a boost from the EPA's new strategy, which uses certain non-hazardous additives to reduce the concentration of contaminants directly in the soil.
The new method is the result of four years of research and data collection, in which EPA engineers compared the natural processes of the new method to continued use of the pump-and-treat tactic. To ensure the cleanup is effective in practice, the EPA will monitor the groundwater to verify that the level and extent of contaminants are in fact declining and that people's health and the environment are protected.
Exposure to hexavalent chromium and volatile organic compounds can lead to damage of the nervous system and an increased potential of developing cancer. Luckily, however, the groundwater at the Newfield and Vineland site doesn't present a direct threat to the community because local wells in the area are not used for drinking water. Instead, residents are connected to a clean municipal water source.
As a part of the EPA's Superfund initiative, which operates on the principle that the parties responsible for the pollution should pay for its cleanup rather than the taxpayers, the new treatment program will be funded by the owner of the site, Shieldalloy Metallurgical Corporation, with oversight by the EPA.
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