EPA proposes constructing water supply for those affected by toxic Mansfield Trail Dump site

Public meeting scheduled to discuss next step in cleanup process


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What: Mansfield Trail Dump Superfund site public meeting
When: June 27 at 7p.m.
Where: Byram Township Municipal Building
10 Mansfield Drive, Stanhope
Written public comments accepted until July 13
Send to: Anne Rosenblatt, Remedial Project Manager
U.S. EPA, 290 Broadway, 19th Floor
New York, NY 10007
Tel. (212) 637-4308
rosenblatt.anne@epa.gov

BY ERIKA NORTON

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed a new project as part of their cleanup of the Mansfield Trail Dump Superfund site last week. The federal agency’s plan is to construct a water line which would allow 18 nearby residents to hookup to a permanent clean drinking water supply.

These residences currently use private wells with water treatment systems that were installed during the earlier stages of the EPA site cleanup.

“The residents have been looking for a solution at the site,” said Elias Rodriguez, an EPA spokesperson. “EPA believes that this proposal addresses the concerns of residents about the permanence of POETS (Point of Entry Treatment Systems, a/k/a/ carbon water filtration and treatment systems).”

The Superfund site — a wooded area near the intersection of the Mansfield bike path and Stanhope-Sparta Road — was used as a dump for septic wastes from the late 1950s through at least the early 1970s, according to the EPA. Sludge-like waste was dumped in trenches in the area and contaminated the groundwater with volatile organic compounds, which are chemicals that easily become vapors or gases.

The vapors from the contaminated groundwater underneath some nearby homes has seeped into basements, and samples taken by the Sussex County Department of Health in 2005 identified trichloroethylene (TCE) — an organic solvent used in industrial processes — in residential drinking water wells along Brookwood and Ross Roads in Byram. Testing done by the state Department of Environmental Protection in March 2006 indicated the presence of TCE concentrations that ranged from 3.9 to 70 micrograms per liter (µg/L).

Exposure to TCE and other contaminants found at the site can have serious health impacts, including damage to the liver, impairing the nervous system or increase the risk of cancer.

Due to the levels of TCE found, between 2005 and 2006, the EPA installed carbon water filtration and treatment systems at the impacted properties to remove contaminants from their drinking water. In addition, NJDEP installed systems to reduce the intrusion of chemical vapors into the basements of five of the homes that tested positive for air pollutants.

Then in 2012, the EPA removed 11,700 tons of contaminated material from the dump areas. The EPA has completed the first phase of the investigation into the nature and extent of the groundwater contamination, and evaluated various options for an alternative water supply. Adding the water line for residents would be part of the second phase of the EPA’s cleanup.

“EPA is protecting residents of Byram from the threats of contaminated groundwater,” said EPA Acting Regional Administrator Catherine McCabe in a statement. “This proposal ensures that people whose drinking water was impacted by the contamination at the site have a permanent source of clean drinking water.”

Residents who choose to be connected to the water line will have their private wells taken out of service, and while engineering plans are being developed and the new water line is constructed, carbon water filtration and treatment systems will continue to be maintained and operated by the the state. Area groundwater will also continue to be monitored.

If monitoring reveals any potential impacts to homes beyond the 18 impacted homes, the EPA will offer connections to those homes as necessary.

As far as price, the EPA will provide connections to the new water system, so homeowners will not have to pay hookup, according to Rodriguez. However, homeowners will have to pay water bills.

“Right now the only cost to residents whose treatments systems are currently maintained by the state is the electricity cost for the well pumps,” Rodriguez said. “The cost to the homeowners will be water bills after hook up has taken place, so this may be more than what they are currently paying. We do not have a cost estimate for the water bills at this time. EPA believes that hooking the residents up to a water supply is the most protective and permanent remedy.”

Meeting scheduledTo explain the proposal and take public comments, the EPA will hold a public meeting on June 27 at 7 p.m. at the Byram Township Municipal Building, located at 10 Mansfield Drive in Stanhope. Written comments will be accepted until July 13.

Byram Township Councilman Scott Olson has been the township’s liaison for this Superfund site since 2005. According to Olson, ‘gunk’ has actually seeped into the crack of the fractured bedrock aquifer about 300 to 400 feet down, and there is no way to permanently and properly clean it out of the groundwater.

"So the 18 properties that have known about this since 2004, they've been wanting something since 2004 to make their homes whole again,” Olson said.

He said that he is happy to see the EPA working to give the homes affected by the contamination a permanent solution for clean water, and encouraged the homeowners to go to the meeting, since these are their properties and private wells.

The New Jersey Sierra Club also released a statement in support of the new plan, urging the EPA to continue their cleanup process.

“There were first a lot of delays to get this site listed as Superfund and then it took six years for them to create a water line so this is a long time coming,” said Jeff Tittel, director of the NJ Sierra Club. “Now the residents do not have to worry that their drinking water is contaminated and their public health is threatened.

“Now that the residents near the Superfund site are getting a new water supply source, the EPA needs to put a proper clean-up plan in place,” Tittel continued. “Without adequately removing these toxins Byram’s drinking water will be put at risk as well as the could even impact drinking water for people in the Highlands.”

Tittel also expressed concern about how cuts to the EPA Superfund Program proposed as part of President Donald Trump’s budget could affect cleanup of the Mansfield site, as well as the numerous Superfund sites throughout New Jersey, the state with the most in the country.

New Jersey Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, the Republican chairman of the House Appropriations Committee who visited the Mansfield Superfund Site in 2013, did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

The EPA estimated the cost of this stage of the cleanup at $8.7 million.


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