Home > Uncategorized > Bureaucratic Bombshell: USEPA Quietly Approved NJ DEP Deregulation of Cleanup Of PFAS Groundwater Pollution At Curtis Specialty Papers Superfund Site In Milford NJ

Bureaucratic Bombshell: USEPA Quietly Approved NJ DEP Deregulation of Cleanup Of PFAS Groundwater Pollution At Curtis Specialty Papers Superfund Site In Milford NJ

Are PFAS In Groundwater Discharging Into Adjacent Delaware River?

EPA Provides “Corrected” Agenda Less Than 1 Hour Prior to Public Meeting


[Correction: apologies. The prior version of this post had a major error in the title! My brain said “Curtis Specialty” but my fingers mysteriously typed “Crown Vantage”. The error has been corrected.]

I’ve written multiple posts critical of the cleanup of the Curtis Specialty Papers Superfund Site in Milford NJ, along the Congressionally designated “Wild and Scenic” Delaware River for over a decade, see (with many photos of the site):

Many of those criticisms focused on groundwater contamination and potential discharges to the Delaware River and the resultant injuries to natural resources.

Although I haven’t been involved on the site during our 5 year western tour, I remain on the EPA’s “Community Advisory Group” (CAG) email distribution list.

My apologies to readers, especially the folks in Milford, if I missed the discovery of PFAS in groundwater. When was it found? How high are the levels? Is there discharge to the Delaware?

During this 5 year period, the issues related to PFAS have exploded in the grassroots activist community and gotten enormous media coverage. NJ DEP has been portrayed as a leader in strict regulation, especially at NJ Spotlight by reporter Jon Hurdle.

The Burlington County Times even created the false impression that DEP was enforcing PFAS cleanup requirements at McGuire AFB and wanted EPA to enforce them at Curtis Specialty:

[NJ DEP] Pedersen wrote the office again in April, roping PFAS in with several other state-regulated chemicals that he wanted the EPA to prioritize at contaminated sites under federal control. Pedersen even offered an example, saying there is likely PFAS contamination at the Curtis Paper Superfund site in Hunterdon County, and asked the EPA to sample for the chemicals there.

As we now know, exactly the opposite it the case: DEP just waived compliance with groundwater quality standards (see how they did that below).

I’ve criticized much of that coverage as cheerleading, while ignoring relevant regulatory issues.

So, I was surprised to just now receive an unusual email from EPA Superfund CAG coordinator Pat Seppi providing a “corrected” meeting agenda, sent less than 1 hour before the CAG meeting tonight.

The corrected agenda included this bureaucratic bombshell as “site progress since January 2021″:

PFAS IN GROUNDWATER – CEA/WRA for PFAS approved April 14, 2021

What? How they hell did that happen with no community opposition and media coverage?

I doubt that many people in the community understand what this bureaucratic jargon means – or that it was fully and properly explained to them by EPA and NJ DEP at a formal public meeting and reported by the media – so let me take a quick stab at explanation.

But first, let me provide some background and context.

I) EPA ignored public criticism, including on PFAS risks

First of all, the EPA takes the position that the community supports the EPA’ cleanup, see ROD at page 22:

Community Acceptance

Comments received during the public comment period indicate that the public generally supports the selected remedy. Oral comments were recorded from attendees at the public meeting held on May 28, 2015. Written comments were received during the public comment period (May 19 to June 29, 2015) from 11 commenters. The Responsiveness Summary addresses all comments received during the public comment period (see Appendix 5).

So called “public support” was politically orchestrated by short-sighted local officials, who sought redevelopment and property tax ratables.

Second, EPA ignored not only all my criticism, but this man’s specific comment as well (Brian Weeks – buried in Appendix 5C)):

4) Did EPA find any perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) or related chemical on the site? As you know, PFOA has been used as coatings on food contact paper, and it is a persistent pollutant with long-lasting environmental and human health concerns. The EPA documents for this site do not state whether PFOA was used in any operations on the site. Ifthey were, I suggest sampling and developing a remediation plan to ensure that this harmful chemical does not remain on the site.

Here’s how EPA responded to that with evasions:

Perfluorooctanoic Acid

Comment #2: A commenter asked whether site operations included use of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) or related chemicals as coatings on food contact paper and, if so, whether they were detected at the site.

EPA Response to Comment #2: EPA is not aware of any site records that indicate PFOA was used at the site.There are records that certain products used on site contained fluoroaliphatic compounds (fluorochemical copolymers Scotchban FC-807 and Scotchban FC-845), which could be considered chemicals in the same family as PFOA. Scotchban FC-807 is a former 3M product that contained Ammonium di-2-(ethyl-heptadecafluorosulfonamido)ethylphosphate. Scotchban FC-845 is a former 3M product that contained an emulsion copolymer of a fluoro acrylate, 2-ethoxyethyl acrylate, diethylaminoethyl methacrylate methyl chloride salt, glycidyl methacrylate, and octyl mercaptan using as emulsifier an ethoxylated amine salt. As these products were applied as coatings, the likely location for the use of the Scotchban products was the CFA. Soils from the CFA were excavated and disposed off-site during site activities, minimizing the potential for these compounds to continue to be present.

Well, I guess those chemicals are present!

II)  What IS a CEA and WRA?

A CEA stands for “classification exception area”.

A WRA stands for “Well restriction area”. A CEA are WRA are issued by the NJ DEP.

These are known as “institutional controls” – they do NOT cleanup the site, but leave contamination in place and warn people not to use groundwater as water supply. No wonder NJ DEP’ CEA webpage hasn’t been updated for over a decade. DEP doesn’t want the public to understand massive loopholes in NJ cleanup laws and DEP cleanup regulations than benefit corporate polluters.

Apparently, DEP quietly issued a CEA and WRA and EPA signed off on the State’s actions under the federal Superfund law. No self serving press releases about all that! Was there a public hearing about it? Nope.

Both decisions are terrible.

A CEA basically waives compliance with NJ DEP’s “groundwater quality standards”, typically for decades, allowing pollution to remain in the groundwater and not be cleaned up. Often, groundwater pollution under a CEA migrates off site and impacts sensitive natural resources.

A CEA lets the polluter off the hook for major cleanup costs and threatens the long run health of the Delaware River.

These are the kinds of DEP decisions you get from a former lawyer for corporate toxic polluters (Mr. LaTourette).

Why has this received no media attention of public opposition?

Did the new Biden or Trump EPA Region II Administrator sign off on this? Will someone ask Frank Pallone?

The public meeting is tonight in Milford – so again, EPA is dodging my criticism.

So, I fired off this email to Pat Seppi of EPA and copied the CAG distribution and a copy to Jon Hurdle of NJ Spotlight, Tracy Carluchio of DRN, and Jeff Tittel of Sierra Club:

Hi Pat – I note that the agenda states that:

“CEA/WRA for PFAS approved April 14 , 2021″

Am I correct that this means that NJ DEP granted a CEA (classification exception area) for PFAS?

Can you provide the technical background on this?

The community should understand that a CEA waives compliance with the NJ DEP groundwater quality standards – those standards are established to protect public health and the environment. Typically, a CEA waives compliance for decades.

Have PFAS been discharged to the Delaware River?

Was that analyzed in the prior remedial action documents, including the Natural Resource Damage assessments?

Apologies for having been out of the loop on this for awhile – I’ve been out west.

Bill Wolfe

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:
  1. No comments yet.
  1. April 30th, 2021 at 12:00 | #1
  2. May 7th, 2021 at 12:55 | #2
  3. May 8th, 2021 at 09:43 | #3
  4. May 16th, 2021 at 18:15 | #4
  5. May 17th, 2021 at 19:16 | #5
  6. May 20th, 2021 at 12:16 | #6
  7. June 24th, 2021 at 12:35 | #7
  8. July 14th, 2021 at 09:37 | #8
  9. July 15th, 2021 at 15:32 | #9
  10. July 23rd, 2021 at 05:14 | #10
  11. July 28th, 2021 at 16:34 | #11
  12. July 29th, 2021 at 23:14 | #12
  13. August 1st, 2021 at 11:32 | #13
  14. August 2nd, 2021 at 08:25 | #14
  15. August 4th, 2021 at 00:08 | #15
  16. August 4th, 2021 at 11:21 | #16
  17. August 16th, 2021 at 16:39 | #17
  18. September 3rd, 2021 at 01:27 | #18
  19. September 5th, 2021 at 18:15 | #19
  20. September 7th, 2021 at 11:16 | #20
  21. September 8th, 2021 at 16:43 | #21
  22. September 23rd, 2021 at 15:02 | #22
  23. October 1st, 2021 at 17:40 | #23
  24. October 2nd, 2021 at 11:20 | #24
  25. October 10th, 2021 at 14:31 | #25
  26. May 27th, 2023 at 14:19 | #26
  27. June 3rd, 2023 at 04:37 | #27
You must be logged in to post a comment.