By Jaimie Moscarello
POMPTON LAKES – The DuPont plant closed its doors on April 1, 1994. It’s been almost 30 years and the cleanup of the 576 acres and off-site still isn’t over.
E.I. DuPont established DuPont, one of the world’s oldest industrial enterprises, in 1802 close to Wilmington, Delaware. 100 years later, the company opened a plant in Pompton Lakes. It became the national center for manufacturing explosives.
The company thrived in both World Wars. In 1917, employment at the plant went from 300 workers to 7,500, and more than 3,000 during WWII. There was a housing boom in the area for the employees working at the plant. During both World Wars, large quantities of gunpowder, as well as other weapons of war, were produced at the plant.
In the 92 years that the plant was active, lead, mercury and large amounts of chemicals to clean machines were used. The chemicals, including explosive powders and chlorinated solvents, were not properly disposed of. The site polluted the groundwater and vapors seeped into the ground and into people’s homes. After finding out their water, soil and air are contaminated, the citizens of Pompton Lakes, as well as the state and federal government, demanded that DuPont clean up their mess.
In 1998, DuPont created a groundwater system to pump and treat the water. The system filters 8 million gallons of contaminated groundwater every month. The groundwater is contaminated with ten chlorinated volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
A decade later, in 2008, the NJ Department of Environmental Protection and the US Environmental Protection Agency, tested soil under homes in the town for chemicals that migrated to the land’s surface. The results were that vapors from two VOCs were found in many homes.
The Citizens for a Clean Pompton Lakes (CCPL) formed in 2008. The nonprofit organization’s mission is to provide environmental education, data and scientific assistance for the health and welfare of the public.
Despite the residents' protests, the site is not declared a Superfund site.
More recently, the EPA ordered DuPont to remove 100,000 cubic yards of contamination from the lake. In a 2011 study, it was found that higher concentrations of contamination downstream from its origin. The EPA expanded the cleanup by 14 more acres. Because the contamination is migrating, fish and wildlife in the water may be dangerous to eat.
DuPont’s plan for further clean up is due this month and the lake cleanup will mostly likely begin in 2014. The company has to acquire 11 permits from the state and town. DuPont still owns the plant site and is responsible for further clean up there. The company pays the town $500,000 annually in local taxes.
For more information, visit http://pomptonlakesworks.com/