Some New Jersey environmental groups want the planned dumping of material from former Willow Grove naval station to be halted
Jon Hurdle reports
for NJ Spotlight:A New Jersey landfill has agreed to accept a consignment of soil contaminated with toxic PFAS chemicals that are increasingly seen as a threat to public health and are being more tightly regulated by New Jersey and other states. Some environmentalists have expressed alarm at the decision and have called for the dumping to be halted.The soil is from the former Naval Air Station at Willow Grove, Pennsylvania, where high levels of PFAS chemicals have contaminated public and private water sources, and where the Navy is removing the most highly polluted soil.The material will be taken to a landfill at Rosenhayn, near Vineland in South Jersey. The site is operated by the Cumberland County Improvement Authority, which has agreed to take 4,500 tons of soil from the base and has determined that it meets the requirements of non-hazardous material even though it contains high levels of some PFAS chemicals.The authority agreed in mid-December to take the soil, but it has not yet been delivered, its president, Jerry Velazquez, said on Friday. He said it’s not unusual to have a delay in delivery after a contract is signed but said in this case, it may be due to the now-ended federal government shutdown.Velazquez said the landfill is double-lined, which guarantees that the chemicals in the soil will not leak into the nearby groundwater, as they have at Willow Grove and another military base nearby, contaminating the water and forcing utilities to install technologies that cut the presence of PFAS chemicals to levels that are designed to protect public health.
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Planned dumping is ‘shameful’
Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, called the dumping “shameful” and dismissed the authority’s assertion that its lined landfill won’t leak. “All institutional controls fail at some point,” he said. “It’s called geology, it’s called physics.”The man-made chemicals, formerly used in consumer products like nonstick cookware and flame-retardant fabrics, have been linked to some cancers, low birth weights, elevated cholesterol and other illnesses, and have become the focus of growing concern by regulators and public-health advocates as more becomes known about their dangers.New Jersey last year became to adopt a tough new standard for one of the chemicals, PFNA, and is considering similarly strict limits for two related chemicals. The chemicals have been found in more places and in higher concentrations in New Jersey than in many other states.
So the planned shipment of soil from within the 95th percentile of contamination at the Willow Grove base to a landfill in the state that has become a national leader in regulating the chemicals was greeted with consternation by some environmentalists.
“It is unbelievable that the military would think to rid themselves of the pollution they caused by dumping it on their neighboring state and that New Jersey would allow this contamination to be accepted, especially considering the known PFAS contamination with which New Jersey is already burdened,” said Tracy Carluccio, deputy director of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, and a longtime campaigner for tighter limits on PFAS.
Making PFAS contamination worse?
Carluccio called on New Jersey and Pennsylvania to halt the dumping, and to adopt regulations that would allow PFAS chemicals to be treated as hazardous chemicals.
“What the Willow Grove Base is doing is not cleanup, it is sleight-of-hand manipulation that actually makes our PFAS contamination worse,” she said.
At Willow Grove, the Navy plans to remove soil containing at least 1,027 parts per trillion (ppt) for the chemical PFOS, or more than 14 times higher than the 70 ppt health limit recommended by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for drinking water. PFOS, which had the highest concentrations of any PFAS chemical at the site, is one of the chemicals that’s being considered for strict new regulation by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.
Like many other military bases around the country, Willow Grove is a major source of PFAS contamination because it used the chemicals in firefighting foam for decadesRead the full story