Buried battery casings prompt health scare in NJ

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Dangerous chemicals have been found, lurking in contaminated soil in Gloucester County, New Jersey. (WPVI)

Dangerous chemicals have been found lurking in contaminated soil in Gloucester County, New Jersey.

The cleanup is costing hundreds of thousands of dollars, and has an entire neighborhood worried about its health.

It all began a few months ago the Martins Family of West Deptford hired someone to repair a damaged sewer line beneath their home.

"As they are digging, it looked like they found battery parts. They called hazmat and they started digging," said Wilma Martins.

The hazmat team, in turn, called in EPA officials, who determined that sometime before the house was built, someone had buried tons of toxic car battery casings beneath the property.

"Essentially our investigation is collecting soil samples, mainly looking for lead contamination associated with the battery casings. Also, obviously, looking for the batter casings themselves because the battery casings en masse are a hazardous waste," said David Rosoff of the EPA.

Hazardous chemicals that may also include cancer-causing PCB's.

EPA officials have since confirmed high lead levels on the Martins' property, where they raised their three children, who are now adults.

Meanwhile, investigators are now sampling soil from dozens of other nearby properties to see how widespread the contamination is, and to see if battery casings were dumped anywhere else in the neighborhood.

Rosoff says it's still early in the investigation, but it seems the Martins' property is ground zero.

"There is a very thick layer of casings in the sub-surface. It's up to four feet thick, and it goes to about six feet deep," Rosoff said.

The Martins', meanwhile, will soon be staying in a hotel for a while as the EPA is forced to cut off their utilities before they dig up the entire property and backfill it with clean soil.

"A couple of months - six weeks or two months they'll be doing it," Martins said. "A nightmare, really."

Remediation for this property along will cost the EPA $500,000, which they're hoping to get back from the people responsible.

One organization they're looking at is a company responsible for a Superfund site about one mile away.

It's a scrap metal recycling facility where battery casings have already been found.
Related Topics:
newsnew jersey newshazmatWest Deptford Township
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