Diamond Head Oil Refinery Superfund site

The Diamond Head Oil Refinery in Kearny, New Jersey was placed on the National Priorities List (NPL) by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on September 5, 2002.  The NPL is the list of national priorities among the known releases or threatened releases of hazardous substances, pollutants, or contaminants throughout the United States and its territories.

The NPL is part of the Superfund program, the common name for the United States environmental policy officially known as the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), enacted by the United States Congress on December 11, 1980 in response to the Love Canal and Times Beach disasters. The Superfund law was created to protect people, families, communities and others from heavily contaminated toxic waste sites that have been abandoned. Many of the contaminants at Superfund sites are also regulated under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).

Background / Site History

The Diamond Head Oil site is located at 1401 Harrison Avenue in Kearny, New Jersey. Currently the site is inactive and consists of approximately 15 acres of vacant land. The area is bordered by Harrison Avenue to the north, entrance ramp M of Interstate 280 (I-280) to the east, I-280 to the south, and Campbell Distribution Foundry to the west. The site is comprised of wetland areas and drainage ditches, a small wetland/pond, a vegetated landfill area along the western border of the site, and remnants of the former Diamond Head Oil Refinery on the eastern portion of the site.

The site, an oil reprocessing facility, was in operation from February 1, 1946 to early 1979. The facility operated under several company names including PSC Resources, Inc., Ag-Met Oil Service, Inc., and Newtown Refining Corporation. All of these companies were owned by Mr. Robert Mahler. In January 1985, Newtown Refining Corporation sold the property to Mimi Urban Development Corporation, which changed its name to Hudson Meadows Urban Land Development Corporation.

During facility operations, two above-ground storage tanks and possibly underground pits were used to store oily wastes.  The Meadowlands BlogWetlands near Diamond Head site where wastes were discharged. Source: The Meadowlands BlogThese wastes were intermittently discharged directly to adjacent properties, including the wetland area to the south of the site, creating an “oil lake”.  The abandoned refinery portion of the site contains various construction debris, including foundations of the former on-site building and two former above-ground storage tanks.

From the close of operations in 1979 until 1982, the abandoned refinery was not completely fenced. During this time, it was reported that dumping of waste oils and other debris took place on site.

Contamination

The material in the former above-ground tanks was analyzed and found to contain polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) at a concentration of up to 206 parts per million (ppm). Subsequent analyses revealed the presence of PCBs at concentrations over 3,100 ppm. Analytical results from further sampling events where ground water, surface water/sediment, surface/subsurface soil, liquid waste and solid waste samples were collected, indicated the presence of volatile and semi-volatile organic compounds, pesticides, PCBs, and metals. An observed release to surface water is documented by chemical analyses of sediment samples collected from wetlands along the southern and western boundaries of the site. Level II concentration of lead and zinc are documented to 0.19 mile of wetland frontage located along the southern perimeter of the site. Remnants of the “oil lake” are still evident in site samples.

The site includes a landfill mound that appears to contain concrete and other construction debris. Further investigations of this landfill will better understand its contents.

Summary of Remedial Actions

The New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) acquired the property south of the refinery on March 6, 1968. In 1977, NJDOT began construction of I-280 and was reported to have removed 9 million gallons of oil-contaminated water and 200,000 to 250,000 cubic yards of oily sludge from the lake. The material was reportedly transported to Newtown Refining Corporation's facility on Long Island to be recycled; however, there are no reports stating that this recycling process occurred. It is also reported that during the construction of I-280, an underground lake of oil contaminated ground water was found extending from the eastern limits of the NJDOT right-of-way to Frank's Creek on the west. It is reported that, prior to abandoning the refinery, Diamond Head cleaned out the two above ground tanks; however, there is no known documentation of this activity.

Refinement International Co. hired Eastern Chemical Co. to clean up the refinery in May 1982. Approximately 7,500 gallons of material were pumped out of the tanks and disposed off site by a Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) permitted Treatment, Storage, and Disposal Facility (TSDF) by Resource Technology Service. Environmental Transport also removed 27 tons of contaminated soil in May 1982.

Currently, the site is fenced and abandoned, and early investigations did not identify a need for any short-term response actions beyond preventing access. As part of the Remedial Investigation for the site, which started in 2002, extensive sampling is being conducted to characterize the site, including the potential for off-site migration.

The Remedial Investigation/Feasibility Study is being performed in two phases. The completed Phase 1 remedial investigation was performed to obtain information in areas where there was currently no information on site contamination, including soil, sediment surface water and groundwater sampling. The results of the Phase 1 investigation were used to define the objectives and scope of the Phase 2 investigation, where additional soil, groundwater quality, geologic, and hydrogeologic data would be collected within the property boundaries of the site as well as beyond the site’s current property boundaries. EPA is at present conducting the Phase 2 investigation of the Remedial Investigation/Feasibility Study.

Sources

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