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Stafford toxic plume spread to Wawa plaza after the company failed to act: NJ lawsuit

Stafford toxic plume spread to Wawa plaza after the company failed to act: NJ lawsuit

STAFFORD — State authorities filed a lawsuit this week against a Route 9 property owner they said is responsible for cleaning up a decades-old chemical spill from a former gas station.

Melcam Properties LLC of Freehold owns 433 North Main Street, a property on the northeast corner of the intersection of Route 9 and Hilliard Boulevard in Stafford, where the state Department of Environmental Protection said the company failed to follow a cleanup plan.

Groundwater there is contaminated with benzene, a chemical that can lead to leukemia, anemia, bone marrow failure and cardiovascular disease, according to the DEP.

The plume also contains 1,2-dichloroethane, or DCA, according to the complaint. Long-term exposure to DCA can damage the central nervous system, kidneys, liver and immune system, according to the state agency.

The spill resulted from the storage of leaded gasoline by a former gas station, which operated on the site through the 1970s, according to a complaint filed Thursday in state Superior Court, Ocean County, by the Department of Environmental Protection, or DEP.

Melcam Properties purchased the site in 2007 to operate an automotive repair shop and removed three 6,000-gallon underground gasoline storage tanks after the purchase, according to the complaint.

Well samples showed that the chemical plume has spread into the drinking water supply from the neighboring Wawa plaza, according to the DEP.

“Prior to purchasing the property, Melcam signed an administrative consent order, agreeing to investigate and remediate any and all contaminants at the property, along with any and all contaminants emanating from the property,” according to the DEP’s complaint.

Despite the agreement, Melcam remains out of compliance with a remediation plan, according to the DEP complaint.

In the complaint, the state department is seeking a $50,000-per-day fine against Melcam, citing a failure to remediate the plume, repayment of the department’s court costs, and cleanup of the contamination.

The DEP’s complaint against Melcam was one of eight environmental enforcement actions announced Thursday by the state department.

“Through these actions, we are sending a clear message: whether you pollute our water, our soil, or our water, we will hold you accountable,” New Jersey Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin said in a news release. “Our communities deserve no less.”

A representative of Melcam could not immediately be reached for Thursday’s comment.

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Amanda Oglesby is an Ocean County native who covers Brick, Barnegat and Lacey townships as well as the environment. She has worked for the Press for more than a decade. Reach her at @OglesbyAPP, [email protected] or 732-557-5701.

This article originally appeared on Asbury Park Press: Stafford toxic plume spread to Wawa plaza, cleanup needed: NJ lawsuit