The EPA and the Sherwin-Williams Company have tentatively agreed to a $14 million plan to clean up residential properties contaminated by one of the paint manufacturer’s former South Jersey plants.
Soil and groundwater from 33 residential properties in Gibbsboro and Voorhees in Camden County tested positive for high levels of lead and arsenic. Even at low levels, exposure to these chemicals can lead to serious long-term behavioral health problems.
The EPA put the former Sherwin-Williams paint manufacturing plant on a list of high priority contaminated areas back in 2008. This week’s announcement marks the beginning of the first phase of the clean-up. It will focus only on the 33 residential properties that tested positive for lead and arsenic.
EPA spokesman Elias Rodriguez said the agency will be working with property owners and local authorities to remove the contaminated material.
“So we intend to go in and essentially dig up the contaminated soil and remove that waste and be able to backfill the area that we’ve excavated and if necessary revegetate it so it’s restored,” said Rodriguez.
However, before that process can begin, Sherwin-Williams must develop a clean-up design for approval by the EPA and affected residents.
Alice Johnston’s home is one of many that borders the polluted Kirkwood Lake. She has 17 areas of contamination on her property and worries the clean-up is moving too slowly.
“If they’re going to do this, and they’re not going to do the lake in conjunction with it, you know, we’re just going to be recontaminated because when the lake overflows, it comes back onto our properties again,” said Johnston.
The EPA has not said how long the remediation process will take. Johnston said she was told that clean-up of her property may not start for another two and a half to three years.
Plans to restore other sites polluted by the former plant, including Hilliard’s Creek and Kirkwood Lake, have not yet been put forward.