Home > Uncategorized > Curtis Specialty Superfund Site In Milford NJ – A Deadly, Toxic, Eye Sore – Nears Demolition Phase

Curtis Specialty Superfund Site In Milford NJ – A Deadly, Toxic, Eye Sore – Nears Demolition Phase

Major mistakes – multiple warnings go unheeded – tragedy ensues

Crime and No Punishment

US EPA Consent Decree with International paper, Georgia-Pacific, and Milford Redevelopment LLC (12/6/16, link below)

US EPA Consent Decree with International paper, Georgia-Pacific, and Milford Redevelopment LLC (12/6/16, link below)

We arrived back in Jersey just in time for what my email inbox said was the quarterly meeting of the EPA Community Advisory Group (CAG) for the Curtis Specialty Superfund site along the Delaware River in Milford NJ.

I’d previously attended CAG meetings and written about the problems with the cleanup and demolition, so I thought I’d drop in and check out the show.

But before I mention some of the issues discussed at that well attended CAG meeting (about 75 people filled the firehouse), let’s rehash some prior warnings that went unheeded, and tragedy followed:

I)  PCB & Solvent Contaminated Stream Bank Washout Risks Ignored

My first involvement at the site, on May 14, 2012, occurred after serious flooding in 2011 had washed out an unknown quantity of PCB and solvent contaminated soils into the Delaware River. So I warned (with a photo):

My primary objective in attending this meeting was to impress upon EPA the need to immediately stabilize the stream bank (see above photo).

At that time, I was not aware that EPA, USFWS, and DEP had already required that the issue be addressed. According to Arcadis Report to EPA, the consultant working for the polluters wrote:

On January 30, 2012, representatives of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP), IP, GP and ARCADIS met at the site to develop a plan to mitigate the unstable conditions of the slope of the Q Creek bank adjacent to the former Coatings Facility Area (CFA). Following the meeting, IP and GP proposed a two-phase Slope Area Mitigation (SAM) to provide long-term stability for this portion of the site.

Too little, far too late.

The PCB contaminated soil removal didn’t occur until fall 2013 – but, since EPA and DEP knew about heavy PCB contamination of the coatings area soils and stream bank steep slope and obvious flooding risks, why wasn’t this work done YEARS ago to prevent the obvious washout risk that occurred?

The EPA “Record of Decision” (ROD) notes that PCB’s were detected in sediments and stream bank soils way back in 2007. And long prior to that, it was well know by EPA and DEP that electric transformers and paper processing technology were major sources of PCB’s at the site. Lastly, of course everyone knows that the Delaware and its tributaries regularly flood and a steep stream bank is highly vulnerable to washout in a flood event:

The 2010 sediment samples were collected from depositional areas within the Q Creek channel (cobble and gravel substrate) along each transect at locations selected to replicate the 2007 locations where practicable. Aroclor 1260 was detected in sediment in 2007 but only in one 2010 sediment sample collected adjacent to the CFA, suggesting that PCB contamination was localized and may have been mobilized during subsequent high flow events.

In contrast to that, albeit downplayed, science, i.e. “may have been mobilized during subsequent high flow events”, check out how EPA spun the issue in the media: Superfund sites along Delaware River escaped major Hurricane Irene damage, EPA says.

EPA was dead wrong.

II)  Site Security Risks Ignored

Far worse than EPA and DEP mistakes to prevent the stream bank washout, those warnings including this warning, tragically which was ignored:

On February 1, 2012 we wrote that DEP had failed to enforce NJ State cleanup laws and properly secure the site:

In July 2003, Curtis Specialty Papers shut down its operations and declared bankruptcy. The facility was abandoned and left unsecured.

On May 14, 2012 we again warned about lack of basic site security measures:

CAG members repeatedly objected to my reasonable recommendations, even minor and basic stuff that would not cost taxpayers a dime, like asking for:

  • installation of fences and warning signs to limit site access to kids;

On September 13, 2015 we again warned about site safety threats:

The decrepit cogeneration plant and old Crown Vantage distribution warehouse are not the only eyesores – that are health and safety threats as well – on the site. Take a look at this, perhaps just 100 feet from a lovely occupied residential neighborhood on Delaware Ave:

Sadly, tragedy struck:

Superfund site where woman died is fenced, secure, EPA says (9/13/16)

MILFORD – The Curtis Specialty Paper Superfund Site, where a woman died on Friday after falling from a catwalk, has “security surveillance, lighting and fencing to discourage trespassers,” according to a federal Environmental Protection site.

The former paper mill, located in Milford adjacent to Alexandria Township, has been closed since 2003 and became a Superfund site in 2009. Rachel Elizabeth Curry, 20, of Holland Township, was at the site with friends at approximately midnight when she fell off a catwalk near a smokestack.

This is sickening and unforgivable.

We will write about the meeting after we can get past this disgust I now feel. Although this tragedy occurred in 2016, I only learned about it last night informally and just now Googled the news story.

This kind of tragedy dwarfs the malfeasance by the corporate polluters and lack of a spine by EPA and DEP bureaucrats.

Crimes of this sort shed a whole new light on the standard corporate abuses, illustrated by stuff like this from the EPA Consent Decree (filed December 6, 2016, shortly after the tragedy) with Corporate Polluters International Paper, Georgia-Pacific, and  Milford Redevelopment LLC (aka “defendants”)

Screen Shot 2018-04-24 at 1.40.30 PM

In our next post, we talk about the greed that is involved in various esoteric aspects of the “cleanup” (and who the hell is “Milford Redevelopment LLC”?)

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