KIYC: Rahway toxic site cleanup company, Soil Safe, investigated

A federal lawsuit filed in South Jersey raises questions about Soil Safe's previous New Jersey remediation efforts. (3/11/14)

CARTERET - Does the company tasked with a controversial environmental cleanup along the Rahway River have a toxic track record?  A federal lawsuit filed in South Jersey raises questions about Soil Safe's previous New Jersey remediation efforts, a Kane In Your Corner investigation finds, and some environmentalists say it proves the company cannot be trusted with a project as sensitive as the Carteret cleanup.

The former American Cyanamid property in Carteret contains 15 acres of cyanide-tainted sludge, making it one of New Jersey's most toxic sites. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection recently issued a permit for remediation to begin on the site. The plan calls for Soil Safe to cap the property with tons of petroleum-contaminated soil and cement. The NJDEP took the action despite repeated warnings from some of its own staff, who said the weight of the soil could have disastrous results, pushing cyanide into the river.

The new lawsuit, filed against Soil Safe over its handling of a remediation project in Logan Township, raises even more concerns. Records show Soil Safe was approved to build a 5-foot cap on the Logan property, but the Delaware Riverkeeper Network accuses the company of ignoring that limit. "We believe that they are taking in too much material and they are not properly treating the material to safe standards," Riverkeeper Maya van Rossum says. 

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Bob Spiegel, of the Edison Wetlands Association, says the allegations in Logan prove Soil Safe cannot be trusted with the Carteret project, where exceeding the permitted cap size would increase the odds of an environmental disaster.  He accuses the company of "leaving behind a toxic track record."

Neither Soil Safe nor the NJDEP, which has inspected the Logan site several times a year for the past decade, would tell Kane In Your Corner how high the cap there is. But in its recent reports, the company has taken to referring to a "minimum 5 foot cap," implying it can dump as much tainted soil as it wants to on the property. "That's a violation of their permit and a violation of the law," van Rossum says. The Riverkeeper also blames the NJDEP for failing to take enforcement action against Soil Safe, which she calls "a violation of their obligation to protect the public."

Soil Safe did not respond to specific questions from News 12 New Jersey about either the Logan or Carteret projects. Instead, the company issued a general statement saying it obeys the law and has no outstanding violations. 

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