Residents still concerned about Kirkwood Lake
Kirkwood Lake residents and a few residents from Gibbsboro gathered at the Camden County Public Works building on Tuesday, Dec. 11. They brought concerns with not only the length of contamination from the Sherwin-Williams superfund site, but also questioned the cleanup timeline.
Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) remedial project manger Ray Klimcsak said the Sherwin-Williams superfund site is one of three sites in the area currently under remedial investigation. Route 561 dumpsite, and the United States Avenue burn site along with bodies of water located in the county and Voorhees were affected by contaminants. Kirkwood Lake, Bridgewood Lake, portions of Honey Run, White Sands Branch and Hilliards Creek contain contaminants from the 60-acer site of the former Sherwin-Williams paint plant.
Kirkwood Lake is the furthest downstream, and contains lower levels of contaminates compared to the sites further upstream, Klimcsak said.
“I don’t want to minimize the fact that [Kirkwood Lake] is contaminated, but the levels upstream are greater. If the lake were to be cleaned up it would be re-contaminated by upstream sources,” he said.
Contaminants include lead and arsenic, both of which are metals that are not typically absorbed through the skin or inhaled, Klimcsak said.
“For New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP), residential criteria for lead is 400 parts per million (ppm), and arsenic is 19 ppm. Within water bodies, the ecological criteria is 19 ppm for lead and eight ppm for arsenic,” said Klimscak. “The concentrations that we have seen in lead is two to three times the 400 ppm, so we are talking 1200 ppm.”
Approximately 35 homes on the lake were sampled for contaminants, he said.
“We don’t see the level of contamination reaching the levels of contamination to the homes that we have been seeing further upstream,” he said, adding Kirkwood Lake does not flood as much as Hilliards Creek.
EPA section chief Jeff Josephson said letters were sent to residents with sampling data from their property. Properties with levels that exceed the DEP’s residential criteria were sent recommendations on how to handle the situation in order to prevent health risks.
Cleanup will not begin until Sherwin-Williams completes the final phase of testing and submits plans from the findings.
“The sampling that is required will take six to eight months to complete. When that is done Sherwin-Williams will then being to submit the plans. It will be two to three years before those are completed,” he said.
Kirkwood Lake is located further downstream and an estimated timeline for the lakes cleanup is unavailable.
“2014 was the time frame that we came up with to begin cleanup at the Route 561 dumpsite,” Klimscak said.
According to Klimscak, the remedial investigation is when sampling is performed. Data from the remedial investigation is then assessed and then put into a feasibility study where the EPA looks at cleanup alternatives. The alternatives are then presented in a public meeting where one remedy is selected, he said.
“As I mentioned, we are still in the remedial investigation stage,” he said.
Some residents presented concerns with the lakes and surrounding soils contaminants, but many are concerned that the lake will no longer by there by the time cleanup begins.
Laura Lyons purchased her home on Kirkwood Lake seven years ago. She grew up on the lake, and bought the house for that reason.
“I’ve been here for seven years, but other residents say they have been here 35 years, and no clean up of the contamination has been done, let alone the spatterdocks,” Lyons said.
Spatterdock lilies are large plant with heart-shaped leaves that often float on the surface of shallow water. Lyons said the overgrowth is causing the lake to slowly disappear.
A few residents said the water is getting shallower, and the spatterdock population is increasing.
“When the residents had concerns about the vegetation we contacted the DEP. The DEP grants permits to remove [spatterdocks] from the lake. There were several different methods for removing the vegetation. Some were more aggressive in distributing sediments, and the EPA did have concerns about re-suspending sediments or mixing and diluting sediments,” Klimcsak said.
He said when the DEP was contacted, there was no real approach recommended and approved by the DEP.
When EPA presented their finding during a Voorhees committee work session in August, Kirkwood Lake residents claimed to see dead animals on their properties, fallen tree limbs and a receding water line.
According to Lyons, the lake is no longer usable.
Since the county owns 75 percent of Kirkwood Lake, Voorhees committee members were unable to take the matter into their own hands.
Camden County Freeholder Jeffery Nash said meeting between Kirkwood Lake residents, residents affected by contaminants in Gibbsboro, county officials, EPA and DEP representatives should meet on a quarterly basis to continually discuss the cleanup.
Representatives from DEP were not present at the meeting Tuesday night.
Nash wants “everybody to be on the same page” when it comes to the issues surrounding the Sherwin-Williams superfund site.
Nash said this is not just a concern for Voorhees.
“It’s a Cherry Hill problem, it’s a Haddonfield problem, it’s a Gibbsboro problem and it’s a Lindenwold problem,” he said.
A meeting is set for March 12, 2013, at the Voorhees Town Center.
According to the EPA’s website, from the mid 1800s to 1977, John Lucas & Company and Sherwin-Williams operated a paint manufacturing facility in Gibbsboro. Since 1999, the site is under the Administrative Order of Consent (AOC) for Remedial Investigation/Feasibility Study (RI/FS). But in 2001 the NJDEP terminated the AOCs with Sherwin-Williams and transferred the responsibility to the EPA.
According to KIimcsak, in 2005 the former paint plant was not a superfund site. The site was listed in the National Priorities list in 2008, and Sherwin Williams agreed to begin sampling, he said.
For more information, visit www.epa.gov/region2/superfund/npl/sherwin/index.html.