Largest Cleanup in EPA History Proposed
In an historic action that will protect people's health and the environment, and benefit riverfront communities, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed a plan to remove 4.3 million cubic yards of highly contaminated sediment from the lower eight miles of the Passaic River in New Jersey. The sediment in the Passaic River is severely contaminated with dioxin, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), heavy metals, pesticides and other contaminants from more than a century of industrial activity. Ninety percent of the volume of contaminated sediments in the lower Passaic are in the lower eight miles of the river.
The EPA is proposing bank-to-bank dredging — one of the largest volumes ever to be dredged under the EPA's Superfund program — followed by capping of the river bottom.
The proposed plan is based on an extensive seven-year study of the lower eight miles of the river, known as a focused feasibility study, and was developed in consultation with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and with outreach to representatives of the many communities along the lower Passaic River. The study examined the contamination and analyzed options for reducing the risks that the contaminants in this segment of the river pose to people’s health and the environment.
"High concentrations of dioxin, PCBs and other contaminants in the lower eight miles of the Passaic River are a serious threat to the people who eat fish and crabs from this river," said Judith A. Enck, EPA Regional Administrator. "The EPA's proposed cleanup plan will result in a cleaner river that protects people's health and increases the productive use of one of New Jersey's most important natural resources and creates jobs during the cleanup. Doing less is not good enough for this river or the people who live along it."
A major source of dioxin in the river was pollution from the Diamond Alkali facility in Newark, New Jersey, where the production of Agent Orange and pesticides during the 1960s generated dioxin that contaminated the land and the river. In addition, approximately 100 companies are potentially responsible for generating and releasing dioxin, PCBs, heavy metals, pesticides and other contaminants into the river.
The Superfund program operates on the principle that polluters should pay for the cleanups, rather than passing the costs to taxpayers. Most of the work to-date to clean up the Passaic has been performed by parties responsible for the contamination. The EPA will similarly pursue agreements to ensure that the cleanup work proposed today be carried out and paid for by those responsible for the contamination at the site.
Read more at the US EPA Newsroom.
Passaic River image via Shutterstock, image credit: Daniel M. Silva.