By Lorraine Metz
According to PomptonLakesHistory.com, DuPont’s local manufacturing plant was established in 1902 when it acquired a manufacturer of explosives. Some of the products included a spark-fired blasting cap filled with mercury fulminate, says the website. Due to the demands of World War I, DuPont acquired a large workforce to produce many items including hand and rifle grenades, detonating fuses and blasting caps. DuPont increased housing, including dormitory style buildings in Pompton Lakes to keep up with the increase of population boom caused by employees and families.
This manufacturing company continued its work well after the war and contributed military products for World War II as well, states the PomptonLakesHistory.com website. Despite the long-running stability of the company, the citizens in the area started taking note of environmental factors that seemed to have been caused by the company, which closed the local plant in 1994.
In an EPA document from 1999, it was determined that groundwater was “known or reasonably suspected to be ‘contaminated’ above appropriately protective ‘levels’." The document details that groundwater was first sampled at the site in 1981 and had continued to be sampled until the date that it was written. It also states that the ‘contaminated’ groundwater discharged into surface water bodies and that the discharge of the contaminated groundwater was significant. Despite the previous findings the EPA decided that the significant discharge of ‘contaminated’ groundwater was currently acceptable but monitoring would continue.
Despite efforts to help reduce contamination and cleanse the area, residents of Pompton Lakes have had continued disputes with DuPont including lawsuits. According to a March 2010 article in The Record by James O’Neill and Elaine D’Aurizio, titled “Pompton Lakes Residents Begin Suing DuPont Over Pollution,” residents from Pompton Lakes have sued DuPont many times over factors including mercury and lead content in the soil of backyards and the brooks that run along them. DuPont offered a $38.5-million settlement in 1997 to residents who in 1993 made claims about their health due to the contamination. The article says that ‘the highest award was $271,000 for a 13-year-old boy who had been suffering from lead poisoning. Nearly $10 million went to 117 children aged 7 to 17.”
After another lawsuit in 2003, DuPont agreed to provide lifetime medical monitoring to over a thousand residents. In 2010 residents of Pompton Lakes cried out again in complaints about DuPont asking for compensation for lost property value and once again for medical issues.
In December 2009 the state of New Jersey released an analysis of cancer incidences in the Pompton Lakes Neighborhood that had been impacted by the DuPont groundwater plume. According the analysis, all cancer types combined as well as 13 specific cancer types were evaluated during a period of 28 years that began in 1979. The findings concluded that while the overall cancer rates were not elevated, kidney cancer was higher than expected in females and Non-Hodgkin lymphoma was higher in males during the last 13 years. While the analysis is quick to mention that there are inconsistencies in the results between males and females, it does state that the contaminated groundwater contained the chemicals Trichloroethylene and Perchloroethylene that have been found to increase kidney cancer, non-Hodgkin lymphoma and other cancers.
Challenging and continued presence of the contamination caused by DuPont, residents have repeatedly taken initiative in standing up for their rights and well-being. While DuPont hasn’t fixed the issues, the citizens in the affected area have continued to keep this issue known and in the best interest of their health and continue to fight for a clean and sustainable neighborhood.
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