Source: Asbury Park Press
When will Reich Farm be taken off the Superfund list? The answer, it appears, is not any time soon.
Instead, Dow Chemical is working with Suez Water to devise a groundwater testing procedure that will continue for at least the next five years. After that, the federal Environmental Protection Agency, which oversees Reich Farm, will decide if more testing is needed.
Dow has asked that the groundwater monitoring cease because water in three wells in Suez Toms River’s Parkway well field has met all drinking water standards since 2005. Each day, 1.7 million gallons of ground water are pumped up by the three wells, treated to remove contaminants, then discharged onto the ground. The water is not used in the water company’s drinking-water system.
The Reich Farm site, located south of Church Road about a mile from the Garden State Parkway, is the source of an underground pollution plume that made its way into Suez Toms River’s (formerly United Water Toms River’s) Parkway well field around 1982. But the contamination was not found until 1988.
In spring 1971, struggling farm owners Bertha and Samuel Reich were approached by independent trucker Nicholas Fernicola, who offered to pay them $40 a month to rent a portion of their farm land to “store” 55-gallon drums from Union Carbide, according to the EPA. Fernicola never paid the farm owners.
The drums contained chemical waste including chemicals such as toluene, methanol, butanol, xylene and trichloroethylene. Carbide removed thousands of drums from the site in April 1972 and also carted away 1,000 cubic yards of heavily contaminated soil from Reich Farm.
In 1994, about 15,000 cubic yards of soil from the farm was excavated and heated to temperatures between 600 and 700 degrees to vaporize and remove pollutants. Shortly after the cancer cluster investigation began in 1996, researchers found traces of styrene acrylonitrile trimer, a chemical compound related to plastics production, in Parkway wells 26, 28 and 29.
All eight wells in the well field were temporarily taken offline. Wells 26, 28 and 26B, which capture the Reich Farm plume, were eventually removed from the drinking-water system. The water from those wells is treated with an air stripper and carbon filtration to remove all contaminants and then dumped onto the ground.
Researchers at the time stressed that the small number of cases reviewed in the study made it impossible to draw any concrete conclusions. But Gillick and other activists note that since treatment was applied to contaminated Parkway water, and two wells were taken offline, leukemia rates in Toms River — once elevated — have returned to normal levels.
Jim Mastrokalos, general manager of Suez Water in Toms River, said the company intends to eventually take the three wells that capture the Reich Farm plume out of service.
“My obligation is to make sure the company provides the safest water possible,” Mastrokalos said. He said the company is still working closely with Dow to develop a water testing protocol for the next five years.