MARLBORO, NJ – It took 25 years to clean Imperial Oil, a Superfund site in Marlboro, and Freeholder Lillian G. Burry has been there since the beginning. It was only fitting that she was present May 2 when it was announced that the cleanup was complete.

“This goes back to the late 1960s and early 1970s when I was chairwoman of the League of Women Voters in Matawan and then later as mayor,” Burry said. “We brought attention to the area where there was contamination, which impacted the soil, water resources, wetlands and the entire region.”

The League of Women’s Voters was very active in environmental issues back then, Burry said, and the group made their concerns about Imperial Oil very public.

“We had found that groundwater contamination went into a brook that fed into Lake Lefferts,” she said. “We weren’t taken too seriously, but it did eventually capture the attention of people concerned about our environment, and that’s when the talk of Superfund came into play.”

Still, Imperial Oil didn’t make it onto the Superfund list until the 1980s, Burry added.

Standing at the Imperial Oil site, which is now a picturesque open field off Orchard Street, Burry joined Rep. Frank Pallone, Marlboro Mayor Jonathan L. Hornick, and federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck to announce completion of the cleanup.

“Sites like Imperial Oil can be put back to good use,” Enck said. “The site has gone from being a polluted wasteland to an area with trees, shrubs, grass, restored wetlands, a pond and a bike path.”

Superfund was created in 1980 to address the country’s most hazardous waste sites. The program was enacted in the wake of the discovery of toxic waste dumps such as Love Canal in Niagara Falls, N.Y., in the 1970s. It allowed the EPA to clean up the sites and compel responsible parties to pay for it. Imperial Oil is one of seven Superfund sites in Monmouth County.

Hornick credited Burry and many others in elected office who helped get the site cleaned up.

“Today comes the end of a very long and terrible saga,” Hornick said. “It took a coordinated effort and 25 years to get this site cleaned up.”     

From the 1950s through the early 1990s, Imperial Oil recycled petroleum products on its 15-acre site. Clean up entailed removing 4,600 gallons of oil that had pooled on the land, along with 30 million gallons of ground water and 180,000 cubic yards of soil.

A total of $17 million for the clean-up came from the federal Superfund program, with $33 million from the American Resource and Recovery Act.

Pallone said cleaning up toxic waste sites not only protects the public health and improves the environment, but it also creates jobs.