BRIDGEWATER, NJ - Wyeth Holdings is prepping to move forward with a cleanup of impoundments 1 and 2 at the American Cyanamid Superfund Site in Bridgewater, and they are starting a test this week to see how it will work.

The American Cyanamid Company was originally obtained by Pfizer when it took over Wyeth Holdings Corporation in 2009. Pfizer has been working on implementing plans for remediation of the site in order to eventually use it as an asset to the community.

The site is in the southeastern section of Bridgewater, with much of it south of the New Jersey Transit rail line and adjacent to the Raritan River. About 11 acres along the river are in Bound Brook.

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About 140 of the 575 acres of the superfund site were already redeveloped after full remediation was completed in 1998 — they are now home to TD Bank Ballpark, the Van Horne House and the Bridgewater Promenade, among others.

Impoundments 1 and 2 are located south of the freight rail line in the southeastern portion of the site, and were used between 1947 and 1965 to store acid tar waste from a coal light-oil refining process. The tar is corrosive and acidic, and can present a significant risk to health and the environment if exposed to it.

These two impoundments have been saved for last in the cleanup because their location makes them difficult to access, with the rail line to one side, Route 287 to the east, a residential community about 1,800 feet away and the river at constant risk of flooding.

In September, Wyeth and the United States Environmental Protection Agency signed an agreement to allow for the design and engineering of an approved remedy for remediation of the impoundments.

According to Russell Downey, director of environmental remediation with Pfizer, the record of decision for the site-wide remedy was reached in 2012, and a lot of work has been done on the property since then, with work continuing on other elements of the site-wide remediation.

Impoundments 1 and 2 are a remaining 4 acres that have not been remediated.

“The EPA carved them out because they wanted to do a focused feasibility study,” he said. “We looked at a bunch of different remediations.”

In May 2018, Downey said, the EPA proposed a remedial action plan, followed by a public comment process. Through that, they determined that the best method for remediation would be an excavation and removal of the tar material in the impoundments.

Downey said it will be handled on the site initially, where they will compress the tar and squeeze the liquid out of it. The tar will then be put into containers and taken off site to kilns out in the midwest where it will be thermally destroyed.

The remaining liquid that was squeezed out, he said, will be treated on site. Downey said they built a new groundwater treatment facility on the site, and they are hoping to treat all of the liquid there, but it will be based on capacity.

“We may find we can only treat a portion of it there, and then we have to take some of it offsite,” he said. “But all of the material taken out of the impoundments is getting treated.”

This week, they will begin a 90-day trial to do a large-scale remediation of 500 tons of the material to determine that the plan will work without disrupting nearby residents and businesses. There is a total of 55,000 cubic yards of material that will need to treated as a whole.

“We will be excavating the material, squeezing it, capturing the waste stream and shipping it off to different kilns to determine how much they can take,” Downey said.

“We looked at a lot of different remedies,” he added. “And we wanted to find the safest we could do where we have a lot more control and we can move easily if there is flooding or any other natural event.”

Downey said they have been setting up the test over the last month and getting the equipment in place. They have also had to make a number of adjustments based on the COVID pandemic, adding more bathrooms and wash stations and more.

The expectation is the trial will be completed in September at the latest, but possibly in late August.

“We delayed it almost two months because of COVID,” Downey said. “We were going to start in early March, but people were trying to figure out contact tracing and social distancing, and we wanted to make sure we had all the science.”

“Now we have seen the infection rates have gone down, Gov. Phil Murphy has relaxed some restrictions and the EPA wants to get it done,” he added.  “We saw an opportunity to do this.”

Downey said the hope is that if they can go full scale to do the work once the trial is over. They will do about 6,000 tons per year, and hopefully finish the entire job in three to four years.

He said they believe they will start the full work in 2021.

“All the information from the pilot has a vital role,” Downey said. “We send the material to different areas that are going to be treated in the midwest, and they have to look at their ability to treat it at length.”

Downey said everything is under EPA oversight, in addition to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.

As the work is being done, Downey said, they will be using a community air monitoring program they developed, with eight stations that will continuously monitor the air quality while they are doing the work.

“It will give organic compound information, particulate information and other real time for specific contaminants,” he said. “As we dig out the material, we have different ways of suppressing the emissions, and we have sophisticated sprayers.”

In addition, Downey said, another project like this was completed in Syracuse, NY, and the firm working on it there was hired to aid in this project as well.

“They successfully remediated a similar tar material over four to five years,” he said. “They had no traffic accidents, truck accidents or significant complaints.”

For truck traffic coming off the site, Downey said, the material will be completely covered and hidden from view. When they are leaving the site, they will drive down Bufflehead Road, which is mostly a private road with a large part on the site itself, and then on to Polhemus Lane, which is all commercial and industrial.

From there, Downey said, they can go straight to Chimney Rock Road and then on to Route 287 and the main highways.

Only about five trucks are expected to travel to and from the site on a daily basis.

“We are also exploring an ability to go to the rail yard in intermodal containers and get them put on a train car, where they can take six to 10 of those,” he said. “We are looking at a means of transportation all through commercial and industrial areas, not through residential areas.”

They have done outreach to local neighbors, and through the EPA, to let them know about the plans, and they have also spoken with local emergency responders to let them know about the route.

The work is expected to be done only during the work week, and may be able to be done only Mondays through Thursdays.

Downey said they are looking forward to getting to work, and are optimistic about the outcome.

“The remedy that was selected is the one that is most robust,” he said. “We are taking the material off site and treating it, it is not being left behind. This was well received by a lot of groups.”