Posted on October 6, 2021
The federal government finally has decided to clean up several lakes streams connected with the Sherwin-Williams/Lucas Paintworks Superfund Site in Camden County.
The Environmental Protection Agency said Friday that the next phase of the extensive Superfund site cleanup would be dredging of three contaminated lakes and one creek that span three communities — Gibbsboro, Voorhees and Lindenwold.
“Hallelujah!” was the reaction of activist Alice Johnston, head of the Kirkwood Lake Environmental Committee in Voorhees.
The committee has clamored for years for the cleanup of Kirkwood Lake, one of several lakes contaminated by former paint manufacturing and disposal sites in Gibbsboro.
Residents and officials from Camden County, Gibbsboro and Voorhees and have fought for cleanup for decades.
The other contaminated waterways due for cleanup are Silver Lake, Bridgewood Lake and Hilliard’s Creek, all in Gibbsboro.
Kirkwood Lake borders on Voorhees and Lindenwold and is downstream from the former paint plant site in neighboring Gibbsboro.
“It has been a long haul. The Superfund site dates to 1980 when it was discovered and documented, but the first testing was not done until 1999,” Johnston recalled.
Besides contamination, Kirkwood Lake has become very shallow and is prone to vegetation growth that the county has tried to manage through herbicide spraying.
“This final decision addresses the communities’ expressed desire that we clean up contamination in these waterbodies,” said acting EPA Regional Administrator Walter Mugdan.
He said the cleanup also will protect people “from exposure to arsenic and lead contamination in the soil and sediment while preserving valued community wetlands.”
An elated Camden County Director Jeffrey Nash called the EPA decision “a goal we all have been working toward for years.” He credited persistence by local residents and especially by Gibbsboro Mayor Ed Campbell, who has been pushing for clean-up of multiple sites for several decades.
Past cleanup phases have focused on the Route 561 Dump Site and the United States Avenue Burn Superfund Site, both in Gibbsboro. Properties bordering on Kirkwood Lake also have been cleaned.
“Today we mark two major milestones — completion of the Route 561 Dump Site remediation and the issuance of the EPA’s “Record of Decision” for the waterbodies,” Campbell said.
“While there is still a long journey before us, this signifies another step forward in the journey to address the wake of our industrial past,” he said.
He also noted expectations for more significant progress during the next year at the burn site and the former manufacturing plant.
The Route 561 Dump Site includes Continental Plaza shops, undeveloped lots and a stream corridor known as the White Sands Branch stream, which feeds Bridgewood Lake in Gibbsboro.
As part of the cleanup. Sherwin-Williams recently constructed a multi-purpose trail along Lakeview Drive, County Route 561 and the newly created Generations Memorial Park, which is adjacent to the plaza and owned by Gibbsboro.
The trail and park mark the completion and remediation of the first major source of contamination, according to Campbell.
Besides dredging 128,000cubic yards of contaminated sediment, the latest plan calls for excavation and capping of floodplain soil along all the waterways.
Additionally, EPA also will oversee construction of a system to temporarily divert streams during the dredging work.
Mugdan added the finalized plan “allows us to move forward with our continuing work to protect the communities impacted by this and the other associated sites.”
He noted the plan was developed in “close coordination with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.”
The waterway cleanup phase is projected to take up to three years.
Implementation of dredging is projected to start 10 months after design and also soil sedimentation sampling and analysis are completed, according to provisions of the written EPA decision.
Another factor could also affect the timetable.
“The remediation of soil and sediment will be sequenced with the ongoing design and remediation that is underway at each of the three Sherwin-Williams sites. This work might be dependent on the status of other remediation work,” the decision said.