Foundry Cleaned Up Its Lead-tainted Dirt

Posted: January 01, 1993

GLOUCESTER TOWNSHIP — A Blackwood foundry, under state orders since July 1990 to remove lead- contaminated dirt and other lead-tainted materials from the property, has complied with those orders but might still face other action.

Ed Putnam, an official with the state Department of Environmental Protection and Energy (DEPE), said Urban Casting Co. had removed 150 tons of soil highly contaminated with lead from its grounds on Evergreen Avenue off Davistown Road. The soil had been removed by Dec. 20.

Two dumpsters of debris containing lead and eight 55-gallon drums of leaded dust also were removed, Putnam said.

Urban Casting makes metal fixtures for military and other uses. Alloys used in the process contain about 5 percent lead, a spokesman said earlier this year.

DEPE first ordered the company to remove the dirt in July 1990. About 400 cubic yards of dirt were scraped up early in 1991, but work stopped. In June 1991, DEPE ordered the work to continue, but Urban Casting, experiencing

financial problems and insurance constraints, said it could not afford the cleanup.

Officials decided in October that public money would be used for the cleanup. But Urban Casting, instead, did the work itself. Putnam said that he did not know where the money came from, but that DEPE would be investigating the source of the funds.

Urban Casting spokesman Richard Selm said yesterday that he had not been involved in the cleanup and could not comment on it. Putnam said the cleanup was done by Haas Environmental Services of Southampton. Haas was closed yesterday.

Putnam said DEPE was preparing another cleanup order because a small amount of additional lead-contaminated soil was discovered on the property.

The contaminated dirt at the foundry has worried nearby residents. Putnam said tests done in September showed high levels of lead, copper and zinc in soil surrounding the foundry. Results revealed 900 parts of lead per million parts of soil. Readings were 9,000 parts per million for copper and 4,000 parts per million for zinc.

Residential thresholds are 100 parts per million for lead, 600 for copper and 1,500 for zinc, Putnam said. The lead-laden soil is hazardous only if ingested. He called the copper count "high, but not outrageous," and said DEPE is trying to determine how to remedy the off-site contamination.

In August 1990, Camden County health officials found high levels of lead in the blood of 34 children aged 1 to 14 living near the foundry. Tests last April found no elevated lead levels. No link was ever made between the lead levels and Urban Casting.

The company also is paying of a settlement to the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). In October 1990, OSHA proposed $144,700 in penalties for 33 alleged workplace lead-standard violations.

Last April, Urban Casting and OSHA reached an agreement reducing the fine to $40,000, to be paid in installments. The company has also taken steps to reduce workers' exposure to lead. Controls on lead exposure are to be in place by next September.

Paul Giering, OSHA's South Jersey assistant director for health compliance, said yesterday that Urban Casting was meeting its payment obligations.

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