United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

Stepan Company

1.0 Site Identification

Type of Site: Complex Decommissioning Site
Location: Maywood, NJ
License No.: STC-1333
Docket No.: 40-8610
License Status: Possession Only License
Project Manager: Kim Conway

2.0 Site Status Summary

The Stepan Company facility in northeastern New Jersey was originally owned by Maywood Chemical Works (MCW), which began operations in 1895. From 1916-1956, thorium and rare earth elements were extracted from monazite sands for commercial products by using a chemical separation process. Initially, MCW used thorium to produce gas mantles containing thorium nitrate. During World War II, the monazite sands were used to produce lanthanum oxide for Eastman Kodak’s optical lenses for the U.S. Army. Stepan Chemical Company (SCC) purchased MCW in 1959 and later became known as Stepan Company in 1984. Currently at the facility, Stepan Company conducts chemical processing activities and produces specialty chemicals.

The original MCW property was 12.1 ha [30 ac], which is located now in a highly developed commercial and residential area in the Borough of Maywood, New Jersey. The site is east of New Jersey Route 17; southwest of the New York Susquehanna and Western Railway Line; and northwest of Maywood Avenue. It is approximately 20 km [12 mi] northwest of New York City and 21 km [13 mi] north of Newark, New Jersey.

MCW filled in a swampy area on its property with thorium residues and later built on this area. MCW also used large areas just outside its property to dispose of thorium contaminated process wastes, including land on which New Jersey Route 17 was built in 1932 and land to the west of Route 17. Thorium wastes were used as mulch and fill dirt, which were further spread by the former the Lodi Brook onto properties where commercial buildings and residences were later built. Much of the local area became chemically and radioactively contaminated.

The Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) issued Source Material License STC-130 to MCW in 1954 that authorized possession and processing of source material. MCW stopped thorium production in 1956 and stopped monazite sand processing in 1957. The Source Material License was amended in 1961 to prohibit processing, allowing only existing thorium inventory to be sold. Subsequent license renewals were for storage only. In 1959, SCC acquired MCW and in 1963 began cleanup of waste material stored in dikes and piles east of Route 17 and contaminated material from west of Route 17; this was done with AEC’s approval and in accordance with regulations at the time. SCC buried 6,390 m3 [8,358 yd3] of material in Pit 1 in 1966, 1,570 m3 [2,053 yd3] in Pit 2 in 1967, and 6,575 m3 [8,600 yd3] of additional wastes in Pit 3 in 1968. The burial pits are located within the site property boundaries. Areas adjacent to the site were thought to be clean and license STC-130 was allowed to expire in 1972. In 1976, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), the successor to the AEC, required SCC to renew their license because of the thorium residues buried in Pits 1 and 2 on their property. Subsequently, SCC submitted a license application to the NRC in 1977 and NRC granted Materials License STC-1333 in 1978. In 1983, Pit 3 was added to the license after a company official was fined for withholding information about the material disposed in Pit 3.

In 1980, thorium contamination was discovered on property formerly owned by SCC. From 1980-1983, radiological testing by the State of New Jersey, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Department of Energy (DOE) revealed widespread low-level radioactive and chemical contamination both on and off SCC’s property. In 1983, the area was added to the National Priorities List for Superfund cleanup. In 1984, the U.S. Congress appropriated funds to DOE under the Formerly Utilized Sites Remedial Action Program (FUSRAP) for cleanup of the site. A total of 88 residential, commercial, municipal, and government-owned properties in the Boroughs of Maywood and Lodi, and the Township of Rochelle Park, New Jersey were designated as the FUSRAP Maywood Superfund Site (FMSS). The Stepan Company property, including the three burial pits, constitutes 1 of the 88 identified properties that were contaminated by thorium from activities conducted at the former MCW.

From 1984-1986, DOE remediated numerous residential properties, storing excavated waste materials on 4.7 ha [11.7 ac] acquired from Stepan Company for that purpose. From 1986-1988, additional soil and groundwater studies were conducted by DOE and EPA. In 1993, Stepan Company completed the non-radiological chemical contamination investigation for FMSS, excluding the excavated waste storage site, and found some soil and significant groundwater contamination. The contaminated groundwater was never used for public water supply. From 1994 to 1996, DOE shipped 26,720 m3 [35,000 yd3] of the stored contaminated material by rail for disposal at licensed disposal facilities. From 1996-2000 Stepan Company investigated methods for treating the contaminated groundwater and soil. In 1997, FUSRAP (and therefore the responsibility for cleanup of FMSS) was transferred from DOE to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). By December 1998, 64 of the 88 designated properties had been remediated. In 2001, a Memorandum of Understanding was executed between the NRC and USACE to facilitate remediation of NRC-licensed sites, including the Stepan Company facility, which was to be remediated under FUSRAP. In 2003, the Record of Decision was signed into agreement by USACE and the EPA to address the remaining 24 FMSS properties.

In October 2008, in order to decommission the three pits where the licensed thorium residues were buried on Stepan Company property, NRC suspended license STC-1333 enabling USACE to proceed with site cleanup. Each pit was suspended as USACE took physical possession: Pit 3 in December 2008, Pit 2 in August 2009, and Pit 1 in January 2010. In total, approximately 19,115 m3 [25,000 yd3] of contaminated soil was transported by rail offsite to a licensed disposal facility in Utah. When USACE finished remediation of the three pits, Stepan Company took possession of the burial sites in May 2012. The NRC license was then reinstated to allow the site to be closed out.

In September 2014, Stepan submitted a request for license termination.  This request is currently under review by NRC.

3.0 Major Technical or Regulatory Issues

No current technical or regulatory issues.

4.0 Estimated Date For Closure


Page Last Reviewed/Updated Friday, June 26, 2015