New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP)
By Mandy Coriston Byram - The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) on Monday, March 18, updated residents affected by the Mansfield Trail about both phases of the remediation plan, known as Operating Units (OU). The site is located behind Brookwood and Ross roads, and affects residences on those streets. It is also close to Cowboy Creek and Lubber’s Run, and consists of five areas identified as illegal dumping grounds. The Sussex County Department of Health and the NJDEP began action on the site in 2005; the EPA took over in 2010 and designated the site a national priority in 2011. Kellie Doucette, the District Director at the Office of U.S. Representative Mikie Sherrill (D, NJ-11), attended Monday's meeting to gain insight about the ongoing clean-up efforts. “I’m grateful to be here,” she said, “We’re trying to get up to speed on the Superfund sites around the district, and getting to know what we can do to help out with the remediation process.” EPA Project Manager Anne Rosenblatt, said they're currently working on determining the best plan to connect the affected homes, 19 of which use point-of-entry treatment (POET) systems, into a local water utility. This is the second step of OU1, which was enstated after groundwater testing showed contamination from TCE and other industrial toxins, believed to have been dumped along the Mansfield Trail between the 1950s and 1970s. The design will also include a long-term monitoring, maintenance, and potential expansion plan. Residents who currently have the POET systems will not be compelled to hook into a water utility, but it’s strongly recommended. Mark Herzberg of the NJDEP said it’s highly unusual for residents to remain on a POET system once a water utility is made available. “Maybe we should begin attending the meetings for these water companies,” she said, “Show them our faces, and tell them our stories. They may be more willing to run the lines if there’s a human face to the problem.” Another factor under consideration is annual cost to maintain the POET systems, which averages $1,200 - $1,300. The EPA will pay those costs while the current homeowners remain in place, but if a property changes hands, the new owners would be responsible for system maintenance. In most cases, it’s more cost-effective to use a utility rather than the POET system. Chris Lyon, Chief of Staff at the EPA’s Region 2 office, said he has been speaking with the director, Peter Lopez, about the possibility of changing the regulations on new homeowner costs for POET systems. “We’ve talked a lot about the transfer of ownership on these systems, and we don’t think the onus should be on a new homeowner to pay maintenance on them," said Lyon, after speaking with Lopez. Lyon noted Lopez has been working closely with NJDEP Commissioner Catherine McCabe, but a legislative change would be necessary, rather than administrative decision. New Jersey Statute 7:1J:2.5(c) reads in part, “On or after February 2, 2009, the purchaser of a property on which a POET has been installed and maintained at the expense of the Fund may not make a claim for compensation from the Fund for ongoing POET operation, monitoring and maintenance costs.” The second update provided by Rosenblatt involved OU2, which will remediate the surface sediment, groundwater issues, and vapor intrusion seen in some of the affected homes. Vapor intrusion prevention systems known, as sub-slab depressurization systems (SSDS) are currently installed in several of the properties. Full feasibility reports on both Operating Units are expected to be completed within the next two months, and remediation efforts will continue once the studies are finalized. Funding for the remediation requires reports and their subsequent review. The EPA and NJDEP will hold another meeting with residents once the studies are published, most likely in early May.