middlesex beach shut down for next 5-10 years because of the lead contamination

and of course locals are ticked off

The Environmental Protection Agency is shutting down 1.3 square miles of coastal property, much of it along Raritan Bay, because dangerous levels of lead were found in the soil. EPA officials said they would post 4-by-4-foot, bilingual notices warning of the threat posed by contamination, and will install split-rail fences restricting access to the western jetty near Cheesequake Creek in Old Bridge, at a small beach north of the jetty in Sayre ville, at the Laurence Harbor sea wall in Old Bridge and at Marga ret’s Creek to the south.

“Our plan is to post signs — very aggressive signs, with strict language on it — explaining exactly what the threat is,” EPA project manager J. Daniel Harkay told about 100 people at the Old Bridge Environmental Commission meet ing on Wednesday night. The EPA said the signs will read: “Public health hazard/ Sand sediment and water contaminated with high levels of lead/ Access to the beach and sea wall located behind these signs is restricted/ No swimming/ No sunbathing/ No fishing.” The bills also note that expo sure to lead can be especially harmful to children and pregnant women.

The federal officials who spoke Wednesday said they did not know when, how or even if the sites would be cleaned up. Pressed again and again by angry residents who wanted a timeline for when some sort of re mediation might be done, Joseph D. Rotola, the agency’s regional Removal Action Branch chief, acknowledged that the sites could be closed for five to 10 years — maybe longer; he doesn’t really know. Pat Seppi, who will be the EPA’s public liaison, tried to calm the group. “Even working with the EPA, we get frustrated about the length of time,” Seppi said.

Right now, the agency is only in a position to close the areas, notify the public about the danger and continue to look into the extent of the contamination, according to spokeswoman Elizabeth Totman. “That’s why we’re investigating the scope of this,” she said yesterday. She said the agency does not have a time frame for when it might be considered for the Superfund list, which would make the site eligible for federal cleanup funds. She said there would be a better picture of what will take place in the next month or two. “We’re in the very preliminary stages on this,” said Totman.

Dozens of people spoke at Wednesday’s meeting. Some, like Rich Peterson, feared closing the sites for any length of time could spell disaster for Old Bridge and Sayreville, which have businesses that cater to fisherman and others who visit the no-swimming beaches. “I can’t see waiting around 10 years,” said the Elizabeth man, who fishes there. “People will organize. People will protest. … People will go bankrupt. People will have bad things happen in their lives.” The EPA reported the danger last month after receiving test re sults indicating very high levels of lead.

Rotola, the removal action chief, said Wednesday that residentially allowable amounts of lead measure 400 parts per million. At the western jetty near Cheesequake Creek, the highest levels found were 198,000 parts per million — nearly 500 times the residential limit and about 20 percent lead. The average in the area was 52,399 parts per million. The jetty’s size depends on the tide, but is about 755 feet long and 20 to 30 feet wide. At the Laurence Harbor sea wall area, the range of lead sampled was as high as 142,000 parts per million. The sea wall is about 2,345 feet long.

At the half-acre beach area in Sayreville, just north of the Cheesequake Creek jetty, the range of lead sampled was the same as at the jetty — as high as 142,000 parts per million. The Margaret’s Creek site, which is a remote location not frequented by people, is being added to the list at the state Department of Environmental Protection’s request. The DEP began testing wet lands in Old Bridge about two years ago when the township was looking to sell property, Ed Put nam, the DEP’s assistant director of the publicly funded remediation program, said last month.

A 1972 memo from National Lead Industries, which had a paint manufacturing facility in Old Bridge, indicates the company used the area to dispose of spent cases from acid/lead batteries. Because National Lead refused to help with the cleanup, the DEP turned the case over to the EPA in September, Putnam said. State health experts at Wednesday’s meeting said lead, built up in the blood stream over time, can cause brain damage, kidney failure, diminished intelligence and other issues. Children are much more at risk for absorbing lead than adults, as are pregnant women because of changed metabolism. The metal can be detected with blood tests.

2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Jeannine A. Brenda H. on March 26, 2010 at 12:25 AM

    Raritan Bay Slag

    1920’s, 30’s, 40’s Laurence Harbor & Cliffwood Beach was a beautiful resort. Clean water, clean beaches, healthy fish you could eat. The Raritan Bay/ The Dead Zone why dead zone, due to all the pollutants in the bay…will never be the same much like most of our water ways…


  2. Posted by Jeannine Amoroso, Brenda Hart on March 25, 2010 at 3:53 AM

    Dear Pat Seppi/federal EPA,
    Old Bridge township directed me to Middlesex EPA. Middlesex county EPA directed me to you. AS a life long resident of Old Bridge NJ and Knowing the lead contamination has been at Laurence Harbor NJ since around 1960 to date more or less not mention the medical waste that was dumped in the bay in the 80s and is still washing up on shore to date. The 2010 March storm has devastated the the whole beach front all the way down to Cliffwood Beach. I have got pictures of the beach front, there is tons of trash ,dead animals, seaweed piled up,thousands of plastic & glass bottles, garbage all over the place, huge tree logs lie on the jetty along the beach, huge balls of rubber made up of mostly rubber boots,tampons all over the place, garbage you name its there. You can see where the beach eroded away. Theres a 5ft drop on the shore line from the tide serge and you can see how deep the dumping went, its looks like a biulding was actually built on top of what was dumped there unsafe from my view point.
    Since the fence was installed to keep people out no one has come down to clean up the trash that washes up and what lies there now is just as bad as the lead contaminates ect that lies there. It is a disgrace and more so contributing to the unhealthy enviroment & conditions we are forced live with and in… I am asking you to please get a clean up crew to rid our beach front that now looks like a garbage dump of this discusting unsanitary filth. Once summer comes all that lies there is going to keep piling up rot and make people sick. We are forced to sit back and be patient with the slag clean up situation, but I dont think its fair for Old Bridge to wade in such visable and again unhealthy conditions and it will only get worse. There needs to be a monthly clean up of the beach front of all rubbish that washes ashore. The storm has just amplified the situation and nobody seems to care. The fence isnt working all its doing is causing another health hazard.

    I want to thank you for your time and hope a monthly trash clean up program is emplemented and can be put into action sooner then later…

    Jeannine Amoroso & Brenda Hart


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