Pfizer commits to clean up project in New Jersey

Settlement will provide nearly US$194m for environmental work at the American Cyanamid site in Bridgewater Township

The Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced that Wyeth Holdings, a subsidiary of Pfizer, will perform nearly US$194m worth of clean up work at the American Cyanamid Superfund Site in Bridgewater Township, New Jersey, US. The clean up project includes work to address six disposal areas at the site, where chemicals were manufactured for nearly 100 years. In addition, the company will pay $1m for EPA's past costs of overseeing clean up work at the site.

‘Just as we must act to meet the environmental challenges of the present and the future, we cannot leave unaddressed the toxic legacies of the past such as American Cyanamid's site in Bridgewater Township,’ said Assistant Attorney General, John C. Cruden, for the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division. ‘This agreement will help to protect waterways from seeping contaminated groundwater and makes significant progress towards closing waste disposal areas at the site.’

The clean up work includes addressing contaminated soil, groundwater and six waste disposal areas at the site. In addition, the agreement includes the closure of two waste disposal areas whose contents were previously excavated and sent off-site. Under the agreement, Wyeth will continue to operate a system for collecting and treating contaminated groundwater underneath the site to prevent it from seeping into the nearby Raritan River, Cuckel's Brook and Middle Brook. A study to evaluate alternatives for cleaning up two additional waste disposal areas is ongoing.

The soil, groundwater and waste disposal areas are contaminated with volatile and semi-volatile organic compounds and heavy metals. The extent and nature of potential health effects depend on many factors, including the level of contamination to which people are exposed and how long people may be exposed to the contaminants. The groundwater underlying the site is highly contaminated with benzene and other contaminants. Many of the site contaminants are known or suspected to cause cancer in people and animals, and benzene can cause cancer in people.

The public has the opportunity to submit written comments on the consent decree. The consent decree, a copy of which is available here, is subject to the 30-day comment period and final approval by the court.

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