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Will West Orange Site Be NJ’s Next Superfund?

Selecto Flash Site Now Pending EPA Superfund Listing Decision – Joins 35 Other Sites

Selecto Flash site directly behind homes - exposure and an accident waiting to happen

Selecto Flash site directly behind homes – exposure and an accident waiting to happen

There are immediate health and safety concerns at the site that warrant EPA’s priority attention.

There were extremely strong odors of solvents coming off the building depicted above,which is less than 100 feet from homes seen in the background.

[Update #2 – It always pays to dig in the weeds. I was curious why EPA did not specifically name the suspected sources of the groundwater contamination, especially since we focused on Selecto Flash. I finally got around to reviewing the EPA documents and will note vindication with respect to Selecto Flash. The EPA HRS was  written on March 12, 2012 – exactly 1 week AFTER PEER press release disclosure of Selecto Flash HRS documents!. EPA documents show that EPA knew of Selectro Flash site groundwater contamination way back in 2009 – see footnote #7 of the HRS document: (see also footnote 15 and 22, which document Selecto Flash)

WESTON. Figure 1, Site Location Map; Figure 2, Sample Location Map – June 2009; Figure 3, Ground Water Sample Location Map with Analytical Results; and Figure 4, 4-Mile Radius Map, Selecto Flash Incorporated, West Orange, Essex County, NJ, 07052. June-October 2009. [4 pages]

But Footnote #8 of the HRS is even MORE revealing – and damning:

New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP). Source Water Assessment Report for Orange Water Department; Appendices B and C not included. November 2004. [122 pages]

This shows that DEP and local Orange Water Department officials knew of threats 8 YEARS ago! I have been trying to get out word ion the importance of the DEP Source Water Assessment Program, so this will help make that case.

I can only assume that EPA intentional buried this history, first y not naming Selecto Flash as a potential source and second by naming the Site “Orange Valley”.

Update #1: 3/6/12 – According to an email from the head of EPA Region 2 Superfund program (available upon request):


Thank you for your email regarding the Selecto Flash site. The site is under consideration for listing on the NPL. A public announcement or additional proposed and final NPL listing actions is expected in the relatively near future.

In the meantime, I have forwarded your email and photographs to our Removal staff for review.

West Orange officials have responded as well:

Mr. Wolfe:

Thank you for informing us of this situation. I have investigated your complaint and verified that there is a slight solvent odor emanating from a fan discharging at the lower rear corner of the building in your photos.

I have notified the Essex Regional Health Commission, the agency charged with enforcing our state and local air and water pollution regulations, and have forwarded your email/photos to them. I have also requested that a property maintenance inspector inspect the site for other code violations. – end update

“Slight solvent odor”? Are you kidding me? It was powerful, almost flammable!

The photo above is a building at the Selecto Flash Co. site in West Orange. You can see homes less than 100 feet behind the facility.

Selecto Flash Co. was a graphics and printing operation.

The Selecto Flash site is contaminated with highly toxic and mobile chemicals, which expose nearby residents to air, soil, surface water, and groundwater pollution. Given the proximity of homes, it is also possible that volatile organic chemicals have migrated and seeped into nearby homes, exposing unknowing residents to additional risks.

EPA conducted a Superfund “Hazard Ranking Score” (HRS) at the site back on 10/1/09.

Despite the fact that EPA found that the site posed significant risks that qualify for Superfund cleanup, there has been no decision made regarding Superfund listing or immediate removal cleanup actions taken at the site.

Selecto joins 35 other NJ sites that qualiy for Superfund but have yet to be listed.

So, the next time someone says we need to reduce regulatory burdens on small business, think of the Selecto site and EC Electroplating in Garfield (NJ’s most recent abandoned Superfund site).

I visited the Selecto site yesterday (Sunday 3/4/12). It is located in a poor and black neighborhood, surrounded by other toxic sites and abandoned industrial buildings.

The absolute devastation and shameful abandonment was shocking – and ironic, given its location in the district of former Assembly Environment Committee Chair John McKeon (see below photos).

After the visit, I felt the need to warn EPA, Assemblyman McKeon, and local officials about the conditions I found there. The site is not secured, is a fire hazard, and is emitting chemical vapors. The site is not even posted as a contaminated site and the gates are open, allowing public access and nuisance trespass. An accident waiting to happen.


strong chemical odors emitted by this building - flammable warning sign invites arson or mischief

There are immediate health and safety concerns at the site that warrant EPA’s priority attention.

There were extremely strong odors of solvents coming off the building depicted above, which is less than 100 feet from homes seen in the background.

Nearby residents are exposed to these hazardous air pollutants. They are likely exposed to subsurface gas migration and vapor intrusion, and the site poses a significant fire hazard.

The site was posted as “For Sale”. The , flammable warning on the door and the visually shielded space behind and between buildings literally invites mischief (arson or kids).

I advised EPA that perhaps filing a lien now before sale would be a wise move as well.

Read the larger story with links to all the documents from our friends at PEER.
Press Release

For Immediate Release: Monday, March 5, 2012

Contact: Bill Wolfe (609) 397-4861; Leola Webb (202) 265-7337

EPA Discloses Nine More Superfund-Eligible Sites in New Jersey

Thirty Five Sites Passed Over for Superfund Relief; One More Site Still Pending

Washington, DC – Days after revealing that it did not act on 27 Superfund-eligible sites in New Jersey, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency now admits that there are nine more such sites, according to agency records surrendered in a lawsuit brought by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). EPA is still considering Superfund listing for one site in Essex County but has decided not to list the other eight.

This brings to 35 the total number of sites with contamination risks greater than the Superfund threshold where EPA has failed to act.  New Jersey already leads the nation with most active Superfund sites (114) but this record number could have been raised by nearly a third if all eligible sites had been listed.

PEER sued EPA in late October under the federal Freedom of Information Act after the agency failed to turn over the Superfund Hazard Rankings for non-listed sites in New Jersey.  The Hazard Ranking System (HRS) numerically scores risks to public health and the environment from exposure to contaminated groundwater, surface water, soil and air.

Sites that score above 28.5 points on the HRS qualify for Superfund National Priority List (NPL) listing.  The latest documents surrendered by EPA reveal nine sites that score greater than 28.5, with scores ranging from 35.78 to 57.14 on the HRS scale.

One site, Selecto Flash Inc. in West Orange (Essex Co.), is still pending EPA decision as whether to list on NPL, according to a Department of Justice email to PEER sent on behalf of EPA.  Unlike the other eight sites, however, the Selecto Flash site is not even found on the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Known Contaminated Site List (7/11 version).

“Due to EPA’s misguided “don’t ask, don’t tell” posture, communities in our state are kept in the dark about serious contamination risks right next door”, stated New Jersey PEER Director Bill Wolfe, whose unanswered requests to EPA triggered the suit.  “Nor do we know precisely why EPA acted on some sites and ignored others with similar contamination rankings.”

Passed-over sites cover five counties and include places such as Berliss Bearing in Essex County and Bridgeton City Landfill in Cumberland County.  EPA’s decision to bypass these sites leaves them under state auspices but the DEP has a history of prolonged but ineffective cleanups.  Last month, for example, EPA was forced to set aside a dangerously incomplete DEP-approved cleanup plan for Pompton Lakes.

“A number of these highly contaminated sites may be languishing in limbo, trapped in a dysfunctional DEP cleanup program”, added Wolfe, a former DEP analyst. “With DEP, sites fall through the cracks with little public involvement and even less transparency in cleanup decisions, all of which will only get worse as New Jersey implements its new privatized cleanup program.”


See the HRS scores for the 9 other Superfund-eligible bypassed sites

View confirmation of Superfund status still pending for one site

Look at previous list of 27 bypassed NJ toxic sites

Examine New Jersey mishandling of one of these sites – Pompton Lakes

Read opaque EPA statement on why it bypassed highly contaminated sites

Revisit lapses in New Jersey privatized toxic cleanup program

New Jersey PEER is a state chapter of a national alliance of state and federal agency resource professionals working to ensure environmental ethics and government accountability






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  1. Yong Kong
    March 5th, 2012 at 12:48 | #1

    Hello, Bill,
    I follow your blog and first time writing.
    Below is information I obtained from http://www.cqs.com/super_nj.htm
    I live about 1000 feet from South Jersey Container Corp property and have an on-site well. My address is X . My house is directly across the street from a nursery, with a small pond in the woods at the back of my house. You’ll also see both contaminated sites close to my house on Google Earth.

    I received a letter from NJDEP Site Remediation last week requesting they collect water sample from my well for testing of Formaldehyde. NJDEP is doing/reviewing the site remediation for a near by abandoned industrial site, American Container Company, and determined that the near by existing wells have Formaldehyde levels that exceed the state standard.

    Also, it appears that some sort of site remediation is have been going on at the CERTAINTEED BERLIN PLANT for a while. Only during the night, there are tractor trailers are coming and out of the plant and drive on my street.

    I moved in to this neighborhood in 2010 and was not aware of the prior ground water issues in the neighborhood. All my neighbors have 500 feet well and I was told it was paid by CERTAINTEED. Camden County Health Department have no records of 500 feet wells on my street. Neighbors have told me of old stories of asbestos dust coming from the CERTAINTEED BERLIN PLANT. That may have happened about 20 to 25 years ago. However, I have 100 feet well.

    I can use your help in uncovering what is going on at these two contaminated sites and what NJDEP is doing as far as site remediation goes. There are NJDEP remediation signs in the front with NJDEP phone # and Site ID #. I called but no one calls back.

    After you reviewing my information here and if you decided to look into in more detail, please do not hesitate to call me so I can provide more info.

    I am also an avid bike rider (old bike racer) and check out all of your bike photos and riding stories. Please bring your bike in case you do decided to take a drive. I can take you both road ride or MTB. There are miles of sandy trails start right from my back yard.


  2. Yong Kong
    March 5th, 2012 at 12:50 | #2

    Hello, Bill

    My prior e-mail was for your use and private,

    Please delete from public view

  1. March 14th, 2012 at 10:45 | #1
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