Letter to the Editor: Lockheed Martin in Our Water

Moorestown’s Annual Water Quality Report for 2015 listed Trichloroethylene (TCE) as one of the contaminants in our drinking water. The amount detected was 1.12 parts per billion (ppb) and the report indicates the likely source as: “Discharge from metal degreasing sites and other factories.”

We can be certain that one source of TCE is Lockheed Martin’s plant at 199 Borton Landing Road in Moorestown. Why? Because Lockheed said so in its January, 2013 public report: “Notification of Environmental Investigation and Cleanup.” (The Report was required under New Jersey Statutes: NJAC 7:26C- 1.7(1))

Here are a few quotes:

“During its history, (there were four corporate owners) the site used chlorine-based solvent chemicals in metal parts cleaning operations… In 1987, when the site was acquired by GE from RCA, traces of the chlorine-based chemical solvents and fuel oil were found on-site in the soil and groundwater.”

The Report identifies the solvent on page two: “The principal constituent (contaminant) found in groundwater associated with former site operations is trichloroethylene.” (TCE)

Although GE “immediately” began working with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, (NJDEP) no cleanup plan was approved until 1992.

It wasn’t until 1994, when Lockheed and Martin Marietta merged, that a “perimeter system was designed and a installed along Borton Landing Road to prevent further migration of constituents (contaminants) in groundwater across the property boundary.” (Note the 7-year timeline from discovery to the beginning of actual remediation efforts.)

This system currently consists of eight extraction wells (to collect groundwater), six injection wells, (to redistribute treated groundwater) and 11 monitoring wells.” That’s a total of 25 wells.

Using this system, Lockheed says that it “has been actively removing TCE and other constituents (contaminants) from shallow groundwater since 1995.”

Lockheed Martin is a global aerospace, defense, security and advanced technologies company based in Bethesda, Maryland. Its mastery of sophisticated technology has made it the largest defense contractor in the world.

But even when this enormous expertise in advanced technology was applied for over 20 years, Lockheed Martin was still unable to remove TCE from the water and soil at its Borton Landing Road facility!

Can our Township leaders, along with their contractors and consultants, take $20 million in appropriated funds and do a better job than Lockheed? As the 2015 Water Quality Report shows, they have many more chemicals to remove, in addition to TCE.

The stakes are terrifically high, and I’m not talking about the money. Our health and the health of our children and grandchildren are at risk.

Here’s the evidence: The same NJ law that made Lockheed go public with its TCE pollution history also requires that the polluter recommend online sources for additional information about the contaminant, in this case, TCE.

In its 2013 Report, Lockheed provides a link to the site of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, (ATSDR) which is part of the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta.

This ATSR website says, in part: “There is strong evidence that trichloroethylene (TCE) can cause kidney cancer in people and some evidence for trichloroethylene-induced liver cancer and malignant lymphoma.”

It adds: “The National Toxicology Program (NTP) is recommending a change in cancer classification to “known human carcinogen.”

ATSR poses a question: “Are children more susceptible than adults to the effects of trichloroethylene?”

And answers it, in part: “Some human studies indicate that trichloroethylene may cause developmental effects such as spontaneous abortion, congenital heart defects, central nervous system defects, and small birth weight.

In some animal studies, exposure to trichloroethylene during development caused decreases in body weight, increases in heart defects, changes to the developing nervous system, and effects on the immune system.”

Remember, this is the online site Lockheed recommended.

If we had just read Lockheed’s 3-page Report, and hadn’t bothered to look at the online resources recommended, we wouldn’t learn anything more about TCE than the fact that it’s a chlorine-based solvent that is good for cleaning metal parts and circuit boards.

James Mullin