Wednesday, March 27, 2013

DuPont, EPA Spar Over Pompton Lake Contamination

By Lisa Quaglino

The aftermath of the DuPont Manufacturing plant’s operations is still being felt by residents of Pompton Lakes, even though the facility was closed in 1994. Chemicals were used in the plant during the process of making explosives, and they have contaminated the ground and water in the surrounding areas. Although the company had been operating for 92 years, a groundwater and pollution monitoring system had not been put in place until the 90’s.

Most of the contaminants were VOC’s, volatile organic compounds, that were seeping into the soil and groundwater, affecting a residential neighborhood just south of the factory.  VOC’s can leak into homes in the form of vapor, causing harm to residents and making basements unusable. Measures were taken by DuPont and the EPA to test for and eliminate the vapors and protect the homes in the community. A water treatment system has already been installed at the former plant site and the groundwater will continue to be monitored.

Another worrisome aspect of the DuPont pollution is its effects on Pompton Lake and other water systems, like the well-named Acid Brook. Acid Brook, which empties into Pompton Lake, flowed directly through the DuPont site, picking up lead, mercury and other contaminants along the way. Once this was discovered, clean up was done in and around Acid Brook.

Efforts of cleanup are still being seen today. DuPont continues to take steps in order to reverse the damage done during its operation. They are currently working to ensure that homes in the area are safe to live in, and are about to begin an extensive clean up of lead and mercury contamination in Pompton Lake that was deposited from Acid Brook.

The EPA has begun working on creating permits and guidelines for DuPont’s long term cleanup of the area. Once all permits are in place, a thorough cleanup can begin, most likely in 2014. So far, the EPA has requested DuPont to remove 100,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil in over 40 acres of the lake sediment and continue to test the area after the cleanup. They are also required to monitor the lake continuously and clean up any new found hot spots. However, DuPont is skeptical about the extensiveness of the requested cleanup, and had only expected to focus on a smaller area. Currently, they are appealing the EPA cleanup plan.

Despite this, town officials continue to assure the community that what needs to be cleaned will be done in a timely manner, and that their goal remains to get the clean up done as soon as possible.

With the combined effort of the EPA and DuPont, the cleanup will hopefully be successful and be an example for other areas involving pollution cleanup. Residents remain hopeful that their community will soon be contaminant free and Acid Brook will no longer live up to its name.

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