Sunday, March 6, 2011

Former DuPont Site Still Unsafe

By Lindsey de Stefan

For 92 years, a DuPont manufacturing facility called Pompton Lakes Works (PLW) operated in Pompton Lakes, New Jersey. It produced blasting caps, as well as other explosives during its years in operation, including some for the United States government during both World Wars. The plant ceased operations in 1994. But what it left behind is still a looming and menacing presence 17 years later.

During almost a century in business, DuPont PLW used a number of chemicals during manufacturing in order to clean and degrease the metal and machinery they used. Some of the chemicals spilled onto the ground during that time, leaking into the soil and water, and causing environmental and health issues in the surrounding community.

In March 2008, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) oversaw an investigation designed to assess the extent of the damage done by the chemicals. The investigation revealed two volatile organic compounds-- tetrachloroetene and trichloroethene-- were still present in the soil and water underneath a residential neighborhood. This led to a May 2008 decision to test for hazardous vapors in a number of residences for these potential toxins. Levels aboe federal health standards were found in many of the home's basements and DuPont was directed to take actions to vent the vapors from these houses.

In 2009 a Pompton Lakes cancer cluster was reported by the Department of Health and Senior Services. It has been suggested that this significantly higher prevalence of cancer in the area is a direct result of the contamination caused by DuPont PLW. However, since rates of different cancers varied widely among men and women in the neighborhood, Pompton Lakes Mayor Kathleen Cole said that the link could not be confirmed. It could also not be ruled out as a possibility.

Regardless of whether the underground contamination is the cause of the cancer cluster, residents maintain that sufficient efforts to clean up the former DuPont site and the neighboring community have not been taken by DuPont, the EPA, or any other environmental agency. Despite residents' complaints to federal offices, it is still not listed as an EPA Superfund site. Clean-up oversight has been handled by the NJDEP.Pompton Lakes residents, fearful of the increasing cancer rates and other potential hazards of the soil, continue to push for a proper clean up of the area.

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