Sunday, December 10, 2017

EPA to give two North Jersey Superfund sites attention

Polluters have already removed some of the cancer-causing dioxin from the lower Passaic River near the former Diamond Alkali plant in Newark. But much of the contamination is still spread out in the river's lower 17 miles.

James M. O'Neil and Scott Fallon report for The Record:

The federal Environmental Protection Agency identified a portion of the Passaic River and Berry’s Creek in the Meadowlands on Friday as two Superfund sites that will receive more "intense attention" from the agency as it decides the best route for cleanups.

The two North Jersey sites are among 21 Superfund sites across the country that have been added to a special list requested by EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to receive more immediate focus.

However, the new designation does not provide any additional funding to help with cleanups. And agreements with polluters, which often take years, will have to be secured.

The agency wants to target a nine-mile stretch of the Passaic River – from Belleville north to Clifton and Garfield – contaminated with cancer-causing dioxin.

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Within the next month or two, companies and other entities responsible for the pollution are expected to submit to EPA an investigation they have been conducting that includes the nine miles, the agency said Friday evening.

The EPA already ordered polluters last year to conduct a $1.4 billion cleanup of the lower 8.3 miles of the river from Belleville south to Newark Bay.

Much of the pollution comes from the former Diamond Alkali facility in Newark where dioxin was dumped into the river during the production of the notorious defoliant known as Agent Orange, used during the Vietnam War. Other chemicals of concern include PCBs, mercury and pesticides.

Berry’s Creek is a tributary of the Hackensack River in the Meadowlands. After seven years of study and research, the EPA has been inching closer to a proposed cleanup plan for the highly contaminated creek.

Berry's Creek south of the Meadowlands Sports Complex. (Photo: James W. Anness/

The cleanup of sediment contaminated with mercury and PCBs will likely wind up being some combination of dredging and capping, and the plan should be ready sometime in mid-to-late 2018, the EPA said Friday.

The actual cleanup would still be three or more years away.

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