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Order amid Chaos

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May/June 2001

This cover page currently will be updated every other month

Toms River, New Jersey
Ciba Geigy Superfund Site
What is Cell 1 and why all the concern?


E-mail to this web site recently asked what is a Cell 1 and why the concern.

First, a cell is a "small cavity or hollow place" as defined by the dictionary. In the case of the Cell 1 landfill on the Ciba Geigy superfund site here in Toms River, New Jersey the "cell" was constructed by excavating a pit 600 feet by 125 feet, to a depth of about 23 feet. The bottom of the Cell is about 8 feet above the shallow groundwater table. Cell 1 was constructed with two liners, a lower "Secondary" liner and an upper "Primary" liner. Twelve inches of sand were placed on top of the "secondary" liner to create a leak detection zone between the liners. During the operational life of Cell 1, the cell received approximately 38,000 drums (approximately 9000 tons) of chemical waste and approximately 100,000 tons of wastewater treatment plant sludge. Cell 1 reached capacity on May 15, 1982 and was closed and capped.

Landfill Cell

Why the concern? Currently the USEPA (Federal) is working on plans to remove 31,000 drums of chemical waste from the Drum Disposal Area, an area other than Cell 1. As noted above, there are approximately 38,000 drums of chemical waste in this Cell 1 and the State of New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (State, DEP) has decided not to make this part of any cleanup, a gift to our grandchildren.

Why should toxic drums in Cell 1 be removed?
  • 1. When these landfills (Cell 1 & Cell 2) were orginally permitted, no liquid hazardous waste was to be disposed in these Cells. Certain liquid chemicals could destroy the liner and seep directly into the groundwater aquifers. And according to USEPA documents, "EPA recognizes that membranes will not always have zero leakage and that de minimis leakage may occur."

  • 2. Yes, liquid hazardous waste was placed in these Cells in violation of the permit. Court proceedings followed, and actions also by the DEP. One requirement was to remove all drums from Cell 2 and waste water treatment sludge. The problem here is that some of the contents from Cell 2 & Cell 3 were stockpiled on top of Cell 1. Documents suggest that the Cell 1 liner may have been damaged by the weight of the material stored on top of this Cell. Unexpectedly, leakage jumped in 1986-1987 while this material was stored on top of Cell 1.

  • 3. A 1992 Administrative Consent Order was issued between the State of New Jersey and Ciba Geigy. Paragraph item 7, labeled "Cell 1" states, "The Department contends that the Company has violated the Water Pollution Control Act, N.J.S.A. 58:10A-1 et seq. and the Spill Act by negligently discharging into Cell 1 of the Landfill certain drums containing pollutants or substances which, in some cases, contained solvents. If such solvents migrated out of the drums, they might have the potential to affect the integrity of the liner and might then flow onto the lands and into the waters of the State. Accordingly, the Department and the Company have agreed that the Company will take remedial action, pay penalties, and reimburse the State for certain costs incurred in this matter."

    Some of these drums have been buried for well over twenty years. When will our government agencies protect the public and complete the cleanup of the Ciba Geigy Superfund Site by removing all hazardous toxic waste drums from the site?


  • The previous cover page can be found under "RESOURCES", Previous Month's Cover Pages.