Soil Safe, Baykeeper respond to Rahway Arch article

Editor’s Note: Last week, LocalSource reported it would detail the history of Soil Safe in New Jersey and the company’s political connections in the state. LocalSource continues to work on this story and will publish it at a future date. In its place, we are publishing responses to last week’s article from both Soil Safe and the NY/NJ Baykeeper. To read last week’s detailed story on the concerns surrounding the Rahway Arch project, visit www.unionnewsdaily.com.

UNION COUNTY — With the plan to cap cyanide-contaminated sludge at the mouth of the Rahway River in Carteret, many of the concerns of local groups have been all but ignored by the state of New Jersey. But despite LocalSource expressing many of these concerns to the NJDEP, NY/NJ Baykeeper has not conceded and maintains its concerns are absolutely justified.

In the days since LocalSource published the article titled “Flooding nightmare or wetlands cleanup?” the newspaper has received responses from some of the groups involved.

The project has come to be known as the Rahway Arch project, named after the property owners; Rahway Arch Properties. The property in question is 124.7-acre parcel of land in Carteret formerly owned by Cytec Incorporated, a successor to American Cyanamid, who used the site from the early 1930s through the 1970s to dispose of harmful chemicals and contaminants. The company disposed of 2 million tons of alum, sludge and other undocumented fill, which is now held by earthen berms, or walls. The problem, according to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, is that the site is contaminating the Rahway River and the Arthur Kill.

A solution to this problem was presented in the form of a cap by Soil Safe, a company hired by Rahway Arch Properties, to cap the site and stop the contamination. Last week, LocalSource detailed the NJDEP’s response to many of the flooding and contamination concerns, and the NJDEP’s overall response was that the project is safe and will lead to the intended results without any harmful side effects as it relates to flooding and contamination of the water.
In addition to a response from Soil Safe, the NY/NJ Baykeeper was invited to write a brief response to the article.

Statement from Soil Safe
“Over the last 40 years, there have been 85 acres of cyanide-contaminated sludge pits adjacent to the Rahway River in Carteret. The contamination was from a bygone era when environmental regulations were lax and industry polluted many waterways in New Jersey.
Laws and regulations have thankfully been tightened since the 1970s, but Carteret was left with 2 million tons of sludge in these pits. Data from the 1980s estimated 100 pounds of cyanide being released in the river each and every day. Nothing has been done to stop this, despite the ongoing efforts of local officials and community leaders who relentlessly sought a solution.

Fortunately, the new landowner has an answer. The property is becoming home to a recycling facility that will cap the site with clean fill over a five-year period. This project will control the sludge pits through modern-day environmental regulation and finally cut off the tons of cyanide seeping into the river each year.

The project, which received approval from the state Department of Environmental Protection and has the enthusiastic support of municipal and county officials, calls for the preservation and enhancement of 40 acres of wetlands, while creating 50 to 60 acres of new natural habitat where dangerous sludge lies exposed to humans, wildlife and the elements today. Moreover, as the project-specific Class B Recycling facility will be used to produce the engineered product needed to remediate the site, millions of dollars will be generated from the recycling revenues for other recreational and environmental improvements in Carteret. Funds would be put into a public trust so Carteret can invest in boardwalks, nature trails and open space preservation.”

Statement from NY/NJ Baykeeper
“In last week’s article, the NJ Department of Environmental Protection tried to wave off concerns from their own experts on the proposal to fill the Rahway Arch site in Carteret with imported contaminated soil by saying that there have been many years of discussion about the site. Yes, a lot of discussion, but not a whole lot of science.

NJDEP said that the proposed project meets all of their “technical specifications.” What the NJDEP failed to mention was that they actually waived their own flood hazard rule to allow the project to proceed. It is easy to meet the technical specifications when you are not actually applying them to the project.

The facility will import contaminated soil through communities by truck to be dumped in a floodplain next to the Rahway River. The site is subject to both tidal flooding – it was completely inundated during Superstorm Sandy – and fluvial flooding, flooding from upriver rainfall, such as experienced in Tropical Storm Irene. This project would fill nearly 90 acres of floodplain in an area that has experienced flooding, yet NJDEP says it does not need a flood study to determine the impacts to local communities, instead relying on internal “discussion.”

Finally, on Soil Safe’s assertion that the site has been polluting the Rahway River and the Arthur Kill for over 50 years, the company has not proven this to be true by actual monitoring or sampling of the surrounding waterways to support their claim.

Bringing on more contaminated material to “clean up” a site is not the only solution in this case. If the site is as contaminated as Soil Safe claims it is, then there is a viable responsible party – the prior owner of the site, American Cyanamid – and they should be made to clean up the site, at no cost to the taxpayers. Instead, NJDEP is allowing a for-profit company to bring in millions of tons of contaminated soils into a flood zone under the guise of cleaning it up.

This is wrong for the community and it is wrong for the environment and that is why NY/NJ Baykeeper will continue to oppose this project.”