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U.S. EPA proposes final pollution cleanup plan for American Cyanamid site

Goal is getting Pfizer-owned land in New Jersey back into use

by Cheryl Hogue
June 3, 2018 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 96, Issue 23


Photo shows an aerial view of an industrial sprawl.
Credit: Google Earth
The American Cyanamid Superfund site sprawls across 176 hectares in northern New Jersey.

After more than three decades of cleaning up pollution from a long-closed chemical factory now owned by Pfizer, the U.S. EPA has proposed a plan to finish remediating the site.

The proposal, announced on May 23, sets out how remaining pollution would be removed from the former American Cyanamid site in Bridgewater Township, N.J. Estimated to cost $74 million to implement, the proposal calls for excavating and removing water from more than 42,000 m3 of soil and clay polluted with acid tars and other chemicals. The cleanup will involve treating about 8.7 million L of contaminated liquid, EPA says. EPA has not given a timeline for the project.

Pfizer, which owns the land and is legally liable for cleanup costs, says it’s pleased about the announcement and looks forward to evaluating the details of the proposal.

The site was home to a now-demolished plant once owned by the defunct conglomerate American Cyanamid, which manufactured chemicals and pharmaceuticals for more than 90 years. Waste disposed in ponds at the facility tainted soil and groundwater with volatile organic compounds, including benzene, and metals. In 1983, EPA added the 233-hectare facility to its Superfund list of sites harboring hard-to-remediate hazardous wastes.

Previous cleanup efforts allowed EPA to remove a 57-ha portion of the site from the Superfund list in 1998. Pfizer acquired the land and assumed responsibility for cleanup in 2009. Efforts to craft a final plan for pollution remediation at the site, which is located above an aquifer that is a source of drinking water, dragged on for years.

The New Jersey site’s remaining 176 ha were among areas that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt targeted last December in an effort to pare down the nation’s list of Superfund sites by cleaning them up and getting them back into use.


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