On July 23, New Jersey said it was urging the Biden administration to declare the Hackensack River polluted for decades as a Superfund site, a federal list of toxic sites.
The highly contaminated Lower Hackensack Riverbed stretches 23 miles from the Oradell Reservoir in Bergen County at its northern end to Newark Bay in Hudson County.
According to a 2015 report from the Federal Environmental Protection Agency, sediment samples taken from the river showed very high levels of cadmium, lead, mercury, dioxin and PBC, which present dangers for the human population and the local fauna.
“This area of the Hackensack River was once home to heavy industry, is bounded by known contaminated sites, and its immediate watershed is home to nine Superfund sites affected by contaminants surprisingly similar to those found in the mainstream of the Hackensack River itself. “, reads a letter from Shawn LaTourette, who heads the New Jersey Department of the Environment Commission, to Walter Mugdan, the EPA’s Acting Region II chief which includes New Jersey.
State support for the site for Superfund status is a vital first step to be added to this list of sites, making it available for federal funding and creating legal status to hold owners – like those who polluted the river. – financially responsible for the cleaning costs.
This ranges from municipal governments to private companies that may have deliberately or accidentally dumped pollutants into the river.
LaTourette, Governor Phil Murphy’s newly confirmed choice as head of the NJDEP, continued in the letter that many of these responsible parties can and should be directly involved in the cleanup.
“As early as the 1920s, swimming in the Hackensack River was banned by local health authorities and to this day eating fish … is still prohibited,” LaTourette said at a morning press conference on July 23 at the park. Laurel Hill in Secaucus.
Right by the river
The site is towards the southern end of the Hackensack River, where several of its tributaries merge into the main branch.
While there is no official price yet, the nearby Passaic River, which suffered a similar fate throughout the 20th century, has an estimated cleanup cost of $ 1.4 billion.
Efforts to have the Hackensack River declared a Superfund site languished under the Christie era despite potential support from the Obama EPA, then suffered under the Trump administration.
Democrats now control the White House and the legislative and executive powers in Trenton.
“I’ve been working on getting this designation for the river since 2015. Now everything is lining up,” said Bill Sheehan, leader of the local environmental advocacy group Hackensack Riverkeeper.
There are four Superfund sites in the Meadowlands area that are fueling the pollution of the Hackensack River. The first is the Ventron / Velsicol site in Carlstadt and Wood Ridge, which processed mercury between 1929 and 1974.
The second is Universal Oil Products in East Rutherford, a chemical processing plant in operation between 1930 and 1979. The third is the Standard Chlorine chemical plant in Kearny, which produced lead-acid batteries and mothballs between 1916 and 1993 And the latest is Scientific Chemical Processing, also in Carlstadt, a chemical recovery, processing and storage plant that opened between 1941 and 1980.