KIYC: Rahway cleanup company not EPA-approved despite claims

A potentially harmful cleanup project in Carteret would not use a government-tested or approved technique, a Kane In Your Corner investigation finds. (3/18/14)

CARTERET - A potentially harmful cleanup project in Carteret would not use a government-tested or approved technique, a Kane In Your Corner investigation finds, despite the claims of both the environmental professional proposing it and the company that would do the work.

Kane In Your Corner first investigated the Rahway Arch project last summer. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, under the Christie administration, has been backing a plan to clean up the old American Cyanamid property, located on the Rahway River and filled with cyanide-tainted sludge. It would be funded by allowing Soil Safe, a Maryland company, to bring in tons of new contaminated dirt. As previous Kane In Your Corner investigations have found, the NJDEP fast-tracked the project despite repeated, strongly worded warnings from its own staff that it would likely push cyanide into the river.

Both Soil Safe and Al Free, the "independent remediation professional" proposing the project, have long insisted that Soil Safe's process, which blends contaminated soil with cement dust, was reviewed and approved by the U.S.  Environmental Protection Agency. Documents obtained by News 12 New Jersey show Free made the claim in letters to the NJDEP, and Soil Safe asserted it in company literature dating back at least 12 years.

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But there's a problem with that claim: the EPA says it's simply not true. Just last week, it sent Free a letter, telling him, "It is imperative that (you) stop making this claim. EPA does not endorse the Soil Safe product."

Debbie Mans, the New York/New Jersey Baykeeper, says the EPA letter "makes you wonder what else they're  misrepresenting about the plan. It also makes you wonder whether their process actually does take care of the contamination."

Mans tells News 12 New Jersey's Walt Kane that she believes the project is all about politics. Previous Kane In Your Corner investigations have found Soil Safe donated tens of thousands of dollars to politicians, including Senate President Steve Sweeney. "There appears to be a lot of money being made here," Mans says.

But opposition to the project continues to grow, and not just in New Jersey. A group of New York state lawmakers from Staten Island are now calling for a state and federal investigation into the Rahway Arch project. They say they are concerned because the Rahway River empties into the Arthur Kill, which could affect their constituents.  

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