Friday, December 14, 2012

Eastern Seaboard Superfund Sites Spread Worries in Wake of Sandy

By: Duane Craig
Wherever Hurricane Sandy traveled over land and along waterfronts, the risks of all types of contamination increased. From every minor little spill to major stockpiles of contaminated land waiting for shipment to disposal facilities, the possibility increased dramatically for their contaminated payloads to be dislodged and spread around. But perhaps the potential largest threats came from Superfund sites in New Jersey and New York.

Residents in Brooklyn, N.Y. with properties near Newtown Creek and the Gowanus Canal take great precautions as they clean up their properties, wearing masks and gloves, according to this article. That’s because the nearby Superfund sites, in the process of cleanup, still harbor a rich array of heavy metals and other serious environmental contaminants. The Environmental Protection Agency has so far given the sites passing grades in terms of potential effects on the health and lives of neighbors, however a disturbing trend of sewage contamination has no doubt added to the cleanup complexities. That sewage came from sewage treatment plants that were damaged or that lost power during the storm.

In New Jersey, with 111 Superfund sites - the most of any state, according to this EPA list - residents and cleanup crews may face bigger challenges. For example, the Rarity Bay Slag Superfund site released large enough quantities of lead onto the surrounding ground to warrant warnings being placed at a nearby playground. But even modern facilities, especially those handling petrochemicals, were damaged by the storm.

New Jersey has a concentration of petroleum industries and facilities. In one case, the storm tipped a fuel storage tank, causing it to spill more than 350,000 gallons of diesel fuel into the navigation channel between New Jersey and Staten Island. At a Kinder Morgan terminal, flooding water caused an empty tank to collide with one filled with biodiesel. The spill entered a nearby waterway, according to this report. Sampling and testing continue throughout the area affected by the storm surge.

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