The contamination of a a ground water site in West Orange and Orange was placed on the US Environmental Protection Agency’s worst offenders list on Friday.
The Orange Valley Regional Ground Water site, located along Central Avenue on the border of the two towns, has been added to the EPA’s Superfund National Priorities List of the country’s most hazardous waste sites.
The EPA announced it was considering placing the Orange Valley site on the Superfund list back in March. According to the EPA’s findings, the site consists of a “ground water plume,” which is contaminated with various common commercial/industrial chemicals -- tetrachloroethylene, trichloroethylene, and cis-1, 2-dichloroethylene.
Exposure to these chemicals, according to the EPA, “can have serious effects on people’s health, including liver damage and an increased risk of cancer.”
While these chemicals have contaminated public water wells, EPA spokesperson Elias Rodriguez said, “There is no immanent risk to public health at this site.
"Previous actions were taken to either take the contaminated wells out of service or ensure that the sources were mitigated in a way that they wouldn’t impact public health.”
Rodriquez said that the contributing factors for placing the Orange Valley site on the Superfund list were the types of chemicals involved; the area’s population density; impacts on the surrounding environment; and support from the New Jersey Environmental Protection, who originally called for the federal EPA to investigate the site.
Now that the Orange Valley site is on the Superfund list, the EPA will take the lead on finding the sources of the contamination, those responsible, and remediation alternatives.
“The concept of Superfund,” said Rodriguez, “is the 'polluter pays principal;' the idea that those responsible for the contamination should foot the bill and pay for the cleanup.”
Rodriguez added that it is too premature to offer any time line or cost estimates for remediating the site.
The chemicals were first discovered in the early 1980s. They were found to be contaminating the Orange Park, Gist Place and Brook Lane wells in Orange. Brook Lane was shut down in 1988 due to the contamination.
The Orange Water Department installed a water treatment system to remove the contaminants in the Orange Park and Gist Place wells. These two wells continue to remain active.
Both Orange Park and Gist Place wells serve a population of about 10,000. Only a handful of streets in West Orange -- such as Meade and Lafayette streets -- get their water from Orange’s water supplier, United Water.
West Orange’s water provider is New Jersey American Water Company, which serves the majority of the township. The township’s water comes from reservoirs in Short Hills and Livingston, and wells in Short Hills and Spingfield.
Water for West Orange is also purchased from the Passaic Valley Water Commission, which gets its water from sources in northern New Jersey.
Investigation of the Orange Valley site began again between Jan. and June 2009 which positively identified the contaminants in the wells, soil and shallow ground water in and around the area. While the EPA cited numerous possible sources of the contamination, no official source has yet to be identified.