N.J. molasses part of the recipe for toxic cleanups

    A New Jersey molasses company has been fielding more and more orders that have nothing to do with baked goods.

    The International Molasses Corporation sells mostly to bakeries and ice cream companies. But in the last five years, the Saddle Brook company has been providing more of its product to companies that are using it in industrial waste cleanups.

    “At the beginning, people approached us and we weren’t even aware of it,” vice president Evan Lushing said. “But as we learned more about it, now we’re marketing ourselves.”

    The sticky brown syrup is currently being used to clean up contamination at an old munitions plant in North Jersey.

    The molasses is diluted and pumped into wells, where it seeps into soil permeated by decades-old industrial toxins. Chris Corbett, senior remedial project manager for the EPA Mid-Atlantic region, said it is especially good at helping remove chemicals from anti-greasing agents used in metal manufacturing.

    “It feeds the bacteria that live naturally in the subsurface, in the ground, and as the bacteria grow and proliferate, they break down the chemicals more and more effectively,” Corbett said, into nontoxic byproducts.

    He said the EPA has been using molasses in Superfund sites as a bio-remediation agent for more than a decade. It can be faster and less energy-intensive than pumping groundwater into an above-ground treatment facility to clean it.

    Corn syrup, cheese whey and waste beer can all be used to the same ends.

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