In today's Star-Ledger, Tom Moran writes of the Passaic River:
"It could be lined with parks, with pleasure boats tied up at wooden docks. It could be a place where couples get dinner and go for a stroll, where kids fly kites and eat ice cream, where people would pay extra for the privilege of living in a small apartment nearby. That’s all happening in other cities."Instead, the Passaic River is an industrial dead zone in a stretch below and above the former Diamond Shamrock (Diamond Alkali) plant in Newark, NJ. There, in the 1950's, workers dumped dioxin into the river and, at low tide, used rakes to knock down the piles so no one would notice.
There's no swimming or fishing in that section of the Passaic River and for good reason. Dioxin, a constituent of Agent Orange, the defoliant sprayed by the U.S. Air Force over jungles and farmlands in Vietnam, eastern Laos and parts of Cambodia, is one of the deadliest chemicals every created in a laboratory.
Vietnam estimates that 400,000 people were killed or maimed, and 500,000 children born with birth defects as a result. The Red Cross of Vietnam estimates that up to 1 million people are disabled or have health problems due to Agent Orange.
Back in New Jersey, where Agent Orange was manufactured, "Workers with rakes have been replaced by consultants and lawyers, " Moran writes, in continuation of "the long history of polluters evading responsibility for the murder of this river."
His story explains how Diamond Shamrock's successor corporations and others stuck with the staggering cleanup cost (potentially as high as $2.5 billion) are pressing the EPA to delay implementation of the remediation to 2015 and to limit it to two 'hot spots.'
The Obama Administration is insisting on bank-to-bank dredging. And New Jersey agrees.
“We are in lockstep agreement with the EPA on that,” says Bob Martin, commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Protection. “Cleaning just hot spots is absolutely not adequate and not acceptable. This is the most contaminated site with dioxins anywhere in the world.”
A showdown looms later this year, Moran writes, when the EPA is expected to issue its definitive cleanup plan. Even then, dredging wouldn't begin until 2018, after public comment, revisions and engineering work.
Read the full story here.
Related environmental news stories:
Passaic River Cleanup Diamond Shamrock Superfund Site Newark NJ
The Dismal History of Superfund's Water Body Sites - Law and the Environment
Cleaning a River That Was Given Up for Dead - NY Times.com
Lower Passaic River Restoration Project - EPA
Agent Orange — History.com Articles, Video, Pictures and Facts
VA to adjust list of Agent Orange disorders | Marine Corps Times
Agent Orange still stokes fear in Vietnam's pregnant women - The Guardian