Seventy companies – considered potentially responsible for polluting New Jersey’s lower Passaic River with toxic chemicals – have settled with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to clean up the pollution using their own money.
The companies will be expected to remove about 16,000 cubic yards of highly contaminated sediment from a half-mile long area of the river near the town of Lyndhurst.
The soil has been found to contain high levels of chemicals, including PCBs, mercury, and dioxins, according to the EPA, adding that, “PCBs are likely cancer-causing substances and mercury can cause serious damage to the nervous system. Dioxins can cause cancer and other serious health effects” including hormonal disruptions, early developmental problems, and skin disease.
The agency says that, “The highly contaminated sediment was discovered in Lyndhurst during sampling performed by the EPA and the parties late in 2011. The work is scheduled to begin in spring 2013.”
Specifically, the agreement calls for the companies to remove the contaminated soil from the mud flat area that’s near the north section of Riverside County Park, and install a protective cap over the excavated five-acre area and further test their “sediment treatment technologies.”
The EPA says that if the sediment treatments prove ineffective during the testing period, then “the excavated material will be disposed of in a licensed, permitted EPA-approved disposal facility.”
The agency says that the cap that will be put in place will be “monitored and maintained to ensure that it remains protective” until the EPA can decide on a final cleanup plan for the lower 17 miles of the Passaic River.
Judith Enck, EPA regional administrator, said that this agreement will reduce the exposure of “highly toxic containments” to people and wildlife and “keep it from spreading to other parts of the river.”
The cleanup work will be done under a federal “Superfund” agreement, through which Enck explains that “the companies responsible for the contamination will conduct and pay for the work under EPA oversight, rather than passing the costs onto the taxpayers.”
The cost of the work is expected to be about $20 million, in addition to paying for the cost of the EPA oversight.
The EPA says that it will also work closely with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, local officials and residents, the Passaic River Community Advisory Group, and community organizations throughout the planning and cleanup process.
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