Interim dredging proposed for dying Camden County lake

Posted: August 05, 2014

Camden County officials have begun to explore the possibility of interim dredging to save a dying lake that is part of a cluster of Superfund sites.

One scenario suggested by the county to paint maker Sherwin-Williams, which operated on the sites, is dredging Kirkwood Lake, removing contaminated and uncontaminated soil.

Sherwin-Williams would reimburse the county for operations involving the contaminated soil, and the county and company would split overhead costs.

A spokesman for Sherwin-Williams acknowledged receipt of a proposal from the county.

"Sherwin-Williams appreciates the county proposal," company spokesman Mike Conway said. "We are looking at it, and our environmental team is going through a comprehensive evaluation process."

County Freeholder Jeff Nash stressed that the county has not yet committed to direct participation or funding, but is looking for a solution for the county-owned lake.

"We're trying to develop a concept that will allow the lake to stay alive," Nash said.

The lake, bordered by Voorhees and Lindenwold, has gotten more and more shallow in recent years, and overrun by aquatic vegetation.

The cleanup saga of the Sherwin-Williams site dates back more than three decades, with contamination found on land and waterways in Gibbsboro, where the plant was, into Voorhees. The company is cooperating with the EPA and providing funding for the remediation effort.

The lake is due for full remediation in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-supervised eventual cleanup of the whole site cluster, but upstream areas, including portions of Gibbsboro, will be done first. Some estimates have put Kirkwood's turn 10 or more years away.

By then, residents say, their lake will be dead unless action is taken.

The possibility of interim dredging was welcome news for those who have been fighting for the lake.

"This is very exciting. It's a 180-degree turn from where we were," said Alice Johnston, founder of the activist Kirkwood Lake Environmental Committee.

Johnston said she has been told that even the interim dredging, if it is done, is probably about two years away, but that is better than what she had expected before.

In what lake advocates say is another shift, the EPA is showing increased openness to an interim solution.

EPA project manager Ray Klimcsak said his agency is willing to review and consider approving a dredging proposal, if the county or Sherwin-Williams decides to go that route.

"I think the county believes it would be prudent to get the EPA's approval," Klimcsak said.

Klimcsak said the county has expressed interest in dredging up to about six feet, including the one to three feet of soil that is contaminated with arsenic and lead. He said it is likely the lake bed will be recontaminated and need to be dredged again, but the amount may be relatively small.

Frustrated with the slow progress, residents reached out to their federal legislators. Sen. Cory Booker helped set up a recent meeting with the EPA on their behalf.

"As with all Superfund sites, Sen. Booker wants Kirkwood to be cleaned up thoroughly and safely," Booker spokeswoman Silvia Alvarez said. "Constituents' concerns are of the utmost importance to him, and that is why he convened a meeting between county officials and the EPA - to further the conversation started on an important issue in the community."

856-779-3893 @ritagiordano

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