Friday, March 30, 2018

Pompton Lake cleanup coming to an end; Was it enough?

Aerial photo of the dredging equipment set up to remove contaminated sediment from Pompton Lake that was laced with mercury from DuPont's former munitions facility. (Photo: Chris Pedota/

James M. O'Neil reports for The Record:

Dump trucks loaded with sand have started to roll into Pompton Lakes for the final phase of a controversial cleanup of a contaminated lake that serves as a backup drinking water supply for North Jersey.

The three-year, $50 million project was designed to remove sediment from Pompton Lake that had been contaminated with mercury and lead from a former DuPont munitions facility nearby.

A dredging operation that started in 2016 continued through last summer to remove sediment from 36 acres of the 200-acre lake. This spring and summer, workers will spread a layer of clean sand over the dredged area to serve as a new habitat for aquatic life, and restore vegetation to the lake shoreline.

Controversial project

The project has drawn controversy because residents complained that a more thorough cleanup of the entire lake bottom should have been performed, and questions have been raised about whether the six-inch layer of new sand will be thick enough to protect wildlife from any residual contamination.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency wanted the sediment removed because a toxic form of mercury can build up in fish, posing a health risk to humans who eat them. Exposure to mercury can damage nervous systems and harm the brain, heart, kidneys, lungs and immune system.

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The lake is used by residents for skiing, boating and fishing, but it is so contaminated that fishermen are warned not to eat their catch.

Pompton Lake is also a backup source to replenish a key reservoir that supplies drinking water to towns in Bergen and Passaic counties.

“I hate when people call it a cleanup because it’s not,” said resident Regina Sisco of the project. “I’m happy they’re addressing 36 acres of the lake but what’s happening to the rest of the sediment? It’s a 200-acre lake. That’s really not a cleanup.”

Sisco said the dredging project seemed like a waste of money since significant contamination remains on the former DuPont property — the original source of the lake pollution.

“Who’s to say it’s not going to get recontaminated,” said Sisco, executive director of Pompton Lakes Residents for Environmental Integrity, a resident advocacy group.

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