Sunday, May 11, 2014

Massive Cleanup Planned for Passaic River

By Joseph Farley
A plan to dredge an eight-mile stretch of the Passaic River, in what is being called the largest toxic cleanup in United States history, was recently announced by the US Environmental Protection Agency. The eight-mile stretch from Newark Bay to Belleville is considered one of the most polluted water stretches in the nation.

The plan is expected to cost $1.7 billion and the EPA estimates the cleanup would likely take five years to complete. The companies responsible for the pollution as well as certain companies that inherited liability will be on the hook for the massive bill. Many of corporate Americas finest are on the list including Benjamin Moore, Hess, DuPont, Honeywell, Pfizer, Stanley Black and Decker, and Tiffany and Co., among others. The list includes nearly 100 companies.

The cleanup is estimated to remove enough sediment to fill 358,000 dump trucks. 4.3 million cubic yards of toxic mud is expected to be dredged, all from the lower eight miles. “It’s an important resource for New Jersey, as well as a health concern,” Judith Enck, the EPA administrator in the region, said in a statement. The cleanup is still likely years away, due to the massive amounts of planning needed to carry out the plan.

Upper areas of the Passaic are also Superfund sites, but the cleanup is focusing on this stretch because it contains by far the highest concentration of cancer-causing toxins including dioxin from Agent Orange production, PCB’s, mercury, and other forms of industrial pollution. The industries on the hook were calling for a cheaper cleanup plan, one they called more sustainable, and their plan would focus on 25 hotspots. The reason, other than the cheaper cost, is that they say the cleanup will take decades to implement.

 The plan calls for dredging two and a half feet, and up to fifteen in certain areas. Once cleaned, the spots will be capped with two feet of sand and then a foot of material meant to support wildlife. The toxic materials will be taken away on barges and to approved toxic dumping sites. Disposing of the materials is expected to add another $700 million to the bill, a plan the industries oppose. More meetings will be held in the coming months explaining the plan.

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