Friday, April 9, 2010

Dupont/Pompton Lakes: Years of Neglect Leave Residents Fed Up

By Dave Ragazzo

If a company was a fixture in a certain town for one hundred years, wouldn’t it seem that the residents would love the company that occupied its town and employed members of the community?

Normally that would be the case, if the town wasn’t Pompton Lakes and the company wasn’t DuPont. However, DuPont has long ruined any relationship that they could have had with the people of Pompton Lakes, as the pollution that their company did in the past has led to many lawsuits, angry citizens, and complaints of disease and illnesses including cancer.

DuPont was a fixture in the community from 1902 to 1994, but tests conducted during the 1980’s showed that the DuPont factory was contaminating groundwater underneath many of the residents’ homes. The pollution was coming from several solvents, including TCE and PCE, which were used to degrease machinery used in the factory. Both solvents have been linked to increased chances of developing cancer, which is one of the many complaints that these residents have.

Now, having the pollution underneath a specific building is bad enough but when that pollution begins to move that’s when a problem really arises. The pollution has moved with the groundwater off of the DuPont site and is now under about 450 homes in Pompton Lakes. According to a recent article in the Bergen Record, many residents have begun the suing process of the DuPont factory because this pollution has driven the property values down, and many illnesses have been linked to this pollution. They’re requests are simple and expected as they want the company to clean up the contamination, and many people are seeking retribution because of the hazards DuPont has caused the residents.

“This is an enduring toxic legacy that spans decades,” said Len Srolovic, an attorney representing the residents, according to the Bergen Record story. “These corporations first mishandled and improperly disposed of dangerous chemicals, then, adding insult to injury, opted out of their responsibility to clean up those wastes.”

Although DuPont has everything to do with this pollution, they are at least trying to help the residents. There is no way to take back the actions that they made during their time in Pompton Lakes, but it seems as thought they are trying to help now. In 2008, it was determined that many of the solvents were seeking through the soil and entering the basements of many of the houses in the area. Because of this, DuPont had agreed to install ventilation systems in all of the homes. They have also been set to develop a plan for the clean up of the groundwater in the area which is expected to be released in June of this year. They will continue their clean up efforts as they will also be cleaning up dozens of the contaminated areas in the 600-acre site that they once called home.

Even though DuPont was not right when they polluted this area, at least they are trying to fix their mistakes. There have been instances in the past in which the responsibility of the company was not taken (see the Toxic Legacy series about the Ford plant) and they waited for the EPA to push them to make things right. The EPA has shown in the past that they are not the most reliable organization that the government has. Because of this, it is admirable that the DuPont factory has taken initiative into their own hands and has begun some of the cleanup effort. However, the people of Pompton Lakes have every right to be upset, as their life and well being has been seriously put in jeopardy because of these incidents.

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