Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Occidental chips in $165M toward Passaic River cleanup

The Passaic River is one of the most contaminated waterways in the United States
One of the nation’s largest chemical companies will pay $165 million toward the cleanup of the lower Passaic River under an agreement reached with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, officials announced this morning.

Scott Fallon reports for The (Bergen) Record today:

The settlement with Occidental Chemical Corp., of Houston, is a fraction of the $1.38 billion needed to complete a plan to dredge and cap the river that EPA announced in March. But agency leaders said the $165 million is important because it will fund engineering work to design the cleanup while EPA pursues agreements with more than 100 other companies to fund the dredging.

It will take four years to design the project and another six years to carry it out.

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“We’re dealing with a century of pollution,” said EPA regional Administrator Judith Enck. “We need a decade to get it cleaned up.”

About 3.5 million cubic yards of sediment laced with cancer-causing dioxin, PCBs, mercury and other industrial pollution will be scooped up within an eight mile boundary from Newark Bay to Belleville. The first 2½-feet of polluted sediment will be removed in most of the river and up to 15 feet to accommodate a navigation channel. Contaminated sediment would be taken to an out of state landfill

The plan is 800,000 cubic yards or 20 percent less than a $1.7 billion plan proposed by EPA two years ago. The change is due to EPA shortening by about half a mile the length of a navigational channel it plans to dredge, agency officials said.

When the work is done, more than half of the pollution in the river — about 6 million cubic yards of contamination ¬— will remain in the Passaic, covered with sand and other materials.
The Passaic River is one of the most contaminated waterways in the United States, with pollution dating back more than 200 years.

It worsened in the 20th century with chemical manufacturers and other industry lining the riverfront, including the Diamond Alkali plant in Newark, which dumped dioxin into the river while making the infamous Vietnam-era defoliant Agent Orange.

Occidental purchased the stock of the former Diamond Alkali and inherited its environmental liability.


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