Thursday, May 5, 2011

Pompton Lakes Haunted by the Ghost of DuPont

by Dan Savino

In the early 1900s, DuPont opened and operated a munitions factory in Pompton Lakes, NJ. The plant closed in 1994, but it left a mark that scars residents to this day. As a result of poor environmental oversight and regulations, DuPont has taken advantage of the land and its people. Somewhere along the way, making a buck became more important than the health and livelihood of the human race. DuPont has had twenty years to cleanup its mess, yet the residents caught in the contaminated area known as “The Plume” are still living under very hazardous conditions.

Back in the 1980s, a DuPont explosives plant in Pompton Lakes N.J., was found to have contaminated the environment around it, polluting a stream, a river and many backyards with lead and mercury, and groundwater with toxic solvents that have spread under a nearby neighborhood. For a while, most residents were unaware that chemicals in the groundwater were seeping into homes. Documents detailing the contamination were locked away and not spoken of until former mayor John Sinsimer stumbled upon them. His findings led to the first public hearing on the issue. More than two decades have passed since DuPont assured residents their health wasn’t in danger and that “the contamination would be cleaned up within five years.” But groundwater in Pompton Lakes is still contaminated to this day.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has pledged to work closely with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to make sure any contamination from the DuPont Pompton Lakes Works site is “properly addressed and that people living in the community are protected, informed and involved in site cleanup decision-making.

The contaminated area otherwise known as “The Plume,” was large enough to affect 439 homes as of July 2010. Members of an action group called “Citizens for a Clean Pompton Lakes,” worked to secure a list of contractors who would install vapor mitigation systems that keep harmful vapors from rising out of the groundwater and seeping into their homes. DuPont, the EPA and the DEP of New Jersey all encouraged residents of “The Plume” to have these systems installed. It was concluded that levels of harmful vapors were unsafe and hazardous to health.

Last month, debate began over whether “The Plume” should be a federal or state regulated cleanup site. The Borough Council voted unanimously that it didn’t want The Plume to be a federally run Superfund site. Superfund is a federal law “designed to clean up sites with hazardous substances.” It was due to this law that reports of industrial pollution from Dupont’s operations were made public in the 1980s. The cleanup effort is currently run by both the DEP and EPA. Members of the council didn’t see any advantages to the Superfund designation.

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