Camden County officials are hoping to see action in the near future regarding Superfund site Kirkwood Lake in Voorhees Township after an announcement from the United States Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Justice last week.
The two announced the finalization of a consent decree with The Sherwin-Williams Company “to remove lead and arsenic contaminated soil and sediment at the United States Burn Superfund Site in Gibbsboro,” according to an EPA release.
This site is one of three Superfund sites between Voorhees and Gibbsboro townships where Sherwin-Williams is expected to or is currently doing cleanup. The area sites and waterways were contaminated from a former paint and varnishing manufacturing plant located in Gibbsboro operated by Sherwin-Williams from the 1930s until 1977.
Sherwin-Williams is to pay an estimated $21 million to clean up the United States Burn Superfund Site in Gibbsboro, with an additional $1.5 million toward the reimbursement of past EPA response costs associated with the three sites, according to the EPA release.
“This important agreement builds on years of previous work performed at the site and will result in the removal of approximately 60,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil out of the community,” said EPA Regional Administrator Pete Lopez. “EPA is engaging the responsible party constructively to make this community whole and protect people’s health.”
The release states the initial cleanup plan is to include the removal and disposal of contaminated soil, followed by being backfilled with clean soil and replanted with vegetation and restored. Other soil much lower under the site is to be untouched.
“Contaminated soil beneath United States Avenue will remain undisturbed. The asphalt paving and roadbed will act as a cap, preventing exposure,” said the consent decree.
As for Hilliard’s Creek and Kirkwood Lake, the EPA “expects the investigation of water bodies, including portions of Silver Lake, a large portion of Hilliards Creek and all of Kirkwood Lake and Bridgewood Lake, will be completed in 2019, followed by remedy selection in 2020,” according to the release.
The Sun had previously reported in 2015 that the EPA had hoped to determine a target date of choosing the remedy method for Kirkwood Lake by 2018. Kirkwood Lake has remained as last on the priority list of the three Superfund Sites due to being downstream from the other contaminated locations.
Approximately 1,000 people live within a quarter-mile of the Superfund sites, according to the consent decree by the EPA.
Camden County Freeholder Jeff Nash has described the work at the three Superfund sites as “the number one environmental issue in Camden County,” and says that the county clearly has a vested interest in ensuring Kirkwood Lake survives, having owned it since 1991.
Kirkwood Lake flows into the Cooper River watershed, according to Nash, which is another potentially dangerous aspect of the issue that the county hopes to avoid with potential upcoming work as well.
Nash said the county brought in an environmental expert and attorney to examine what would be the effect on waiting to dredge the lake for another several years while work upstream, which he says is paramount, is completed first.
According to the expert’s findings, the county believes that Kirkwood Lake would end up being too shallow and potentially die in the coming years if work is put off. Instead, pending a record of decision that agrees with dredging Kirkwood Lake, the county currently hopes to be able to dredge the lake while work is completed simultaneously upstream at the other two Superfund sites.
“The engineers believe that there is a way to create a sediment trap that would allow us to dredge the lake and prohibit contaminated particles from flowing downstream,” said Nash.
Sherwin-Williams and Camden County, according to Nash, have entered into a cautionary agreement for Sherwin-Williams to pay the “lion’s share” of the cleanup cost for dredging Kirkwood Lake while the county does the work.
Sherwin-Williams is responsible for majority of the payment for dredging the lake, regardless of when a date is determined, however the cautionary agreement allows for work to be done at the same time as work upstream is, pending RODs.
Again, however, Nash said the county is more concerned with ensuring that work at the origin site of the contaminated materials is addressed and not slowed.
“Any agreement that the county would reach, regarding Kirkwood Lake, first and foremost, would have to ensure that the cleanup work upstream is not impaired in any way,” said Nash.
The county expects the record of decision by the end of the year, according to Nash.
“It appears to be a very positive resolution to a very long-standing problem,” said Nash. “The sooner we get it cleaned, the better. But again, to reemphasize, as the foundation for this entire agreement, nothing will impair the stream cleanup. That remains our overall priority, cleaning the burn site, the source and Hilliards Creek is the priority … to avoid any potential problems with the lake that would cause it to die or create even the possibility of contaminated materials floating downstream into the Cooper River.”