Thursday, April 19, 2012

Dupont/Pompton Lakes Update

By Vanessa Camargo

In 1802, DuPont was established by Eluethere Irenee DuPont de Nemours, a French immigrant, who got a name for himself for being a big gunpowder producer. In the 19th century, DuPont’s Pompton Lakes Works was known for manufacturing explosives that would spark fires; the plant made blasting caps filled with mercury fulminate. During World War I, the United States had a huge demand for gunpowder that was manufactured by Pompton Lakes Works.

Employment at the company tremendously increased from 300 workers to more than 7,500. All employees helped produce blasting caps, detonating fuses, boosters, and hand and rifle grenades. This had a dramatic impact on the communities of DuPont. Pompton Lakes became known as a “company town.” Many residents turned their homes into rooming houses for the company workers. In the 1950’s, after World War II, additional manufacturing development and plant expansions continued for the next three decades.

These years of manufacturing explosives left Pompton Lakes extremely contaminated. There have been high rates of cancer in a Pompton Lakes neighborhood polluted by runoff from the plant site. Soil and ground water contamination was found as a result of DuPont Pompton Lakes Works. Things like volatile organic compounds tetrachloroethene and trichloroethene was found in homes due to vapor intrusion.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency delayed cleanup of Pompton Lake for a year. Cleanup was expected to start this spring but now won’t happen until 2013. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said the anticipated dredging of 26 acres would not be enough to protect the wildlife from contamination. Residents also thought that cleaning up a small portion of the 200-acre lake would not solve a century of mercury contamination from DuPont’s factory.

There is a big effort to try and clean up the toxic contamination left behind by the company’s explosives factory.  Studies show that Acid Brook Delta is where most of the mercury has been collected. For nearly a century, DuPont has spread its contaminants into the Acid Brook. It is said to have run from its site through parts of the town and emptied into the Pompton Lake. There has been a cleanup for the Acid Brook but not the factory itself.

The EPA and DuPont expected to start the clean-up project in March. But EPA spokeswoman, Bonnie Bellow, said that the agency was postponing the work so that it could address a few concerns.

The Fish and Wildfire Service sent a letter to the EPA that stated more studies should be held to detect if other parts of the lake have mercury in it. They also said that the cleanup could possibly leave “residual contamination,” which “may result in injury to fish and wildlife.” Bellow replied by saying that the EPA would try to take that into account and that they can possibly change the lake clean-up.

Residents continue to ask if DuPont should even focus on dredging the lake, being that the plant site, which is the source of the toxic substances, will remain contaminated.

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