🔴 A chemical smell after a February fire at the old Compounders site led to investigations

🔴 Howell's OEM created an evacuation route in case of an emergency

🔴 As the EPA sorts containers at the site the risk of fire or explosion has decreased

HOWELL — Residents have been notified that they might need to evacuate as a result of an illegal chemical dump discovered after a fire at a former chemical manufacturing site in February.

After firefighters smelled a chemical odor during a fire at the former Compounders site on Marl Road on Feb. 9 on the Farmingdale border, the Monmouth County Department of Health was called in to investigate.

Their initial examination of the property found "large quantities" of 55-gallon drums and smaller containers around the property.  They also discovered materials spilled on the ground, open drums and solid waste.

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s Bureau of Emergency Response found 200-300 drums and containers on the property, many of which are bulging, rusting, denting, or leaking.

The discovery led the township's Office of Emergency Management to establish evacuation routes from the site for residents within a one-mile radius in both Howell and Farmingdale in case of an emergency despite the "very low" risk of the release of any potentially hazardous material.

"After all drums are removed from the property, an investigation will be ongoing with the state NJDEP and EPA to determine what, if any, impacts have occurred to groundwater, soil or surface water," OEM said in their letter last month.

In a letter to residents dated April 17, OEM said air monitors have been placed at two locations outside the property.  The EPA has started to sample the chemicals in order to identify them plus sort and arrange the containers, They say this reduces the risk of fire or a need for evacuation.

OEM Director Victor Cook said that as a precaution for any emergency residents should prepare a "go bag" if they have to evacuate.

Evacuation areas near Marl Road in Howell
Evacuation areas near Marl Road in Howell (Howell Office of Emergency Management)

Risk to the water?

Part of the EPA's investigation is to determine any potential impact to groundwater, soil or surface water. The EPA's updates have not addressed the issue.

According to New Jersey American Water's 2021 Water Quality Report for the Coastal North system, the drinking water supply for Howell, Farmingdale and neighboring Lakewood comes from 14 wells and one surface water supply, the Manasquan River/Reservoir.

The well water is drawn from aquifers beneath the surface including the Englishtown aquifer, Kirkwood-Cohansey aquifer, Mount Laurel-Wenonah aquifer, Potomac-Raritan-Magothy aquifer, upper Potomac-Raritan-Magothy aquifer, and Vincentown aquifer.

Compounds manufactured a number of chemical compounds, including glues, adhesives, and asphalt materials, according to the EPA. The facility closed in 2019 and was sold in 2021 as part of a stock sale.

Air monitor installed by the Howell OEM on Marl Road
Air monitor installed by the Howell OEM on Marl Road (Howell OEM)

Dan Alexander is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at dan.alexander@townsquaremedia.com

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