New York District –The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 2 recently announced a $1.38 billion Superfund project for the cleanup of the Lower Passaic River. The event featured keynote speakers Sen. Bob Menendez, Sen. Cory Booker, Judith Enck, regional administrator, EPA, Col. David Caldwell, commander, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers New York District, Bob Martin, commissioner, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, and other participants. Each talked about the importance of the cleanup of the lower Passaic River.
“We know the challenges of standing up for the health of our communities, and I’m confident that we’ll rise to that challenge,” said Sen. Bob Menendez. “I want to thank everyone for their effort and partnership to reclaim the Passaic and leave a new legacy for generation to come,” said Menendez.
The EPA plans to remove 3.5 million cubic yards of toxic sediment, and cap it with two feet of sand for the entire lower eight miles of the Passaic River. According to EPA officials, this is the most contaminated portion of the Passaic River.
Sen. Booker spoke about cleaning up more than a century’s worth of pollution in the lower Passaic River. “Today I’m very grateful for the heroic leadership of the people here, but we have work to do in cleaning up the sins committed by corporations past and present.”
During the 1960s’ hazardous chemicals such as Agent Orange and various herbicides were dumped into the river. Over the years those toxic chemicals sunk to the bottom of the river severely contaminating the sediment with dioxin, PCBs, and heavy metals, creating an unbalance within the ecosystem.
According to Judith, EPA will construct a dewatering facility where contaminates will gather on the bottom followed by a treatment of the water, and the toxic material will be sent to a licensed disposal facility for proper disposal. “This will be the largest volume of sediment ever dredged under the EPA Superfund nationwide.”
The lower Passaic River cleanup plays a critical role in the Corps of Engineers environmental stewardship mission.
"The Army Corps of Engineers is pleased to see this important cleanup plan moving forward," said Col. Caldwell, commander, New York District. "This is extremely important for the necessary environmental improvement of the NY-NJ Harbor and Estuary while at the same time helping protect critical government investments in a responsible way."
Officials also discussed the plan for disposal of the contaminated material.
“The contaminated material removed from the Passaic River will be brought to a permitted treatment facility and then sent to a land fill outside the state of New Jersey, none of the contaminated sediment removed will be disposed of in New Jersey,” said Bob Martin, NJDEP.
The lower Passaic River cleanup is expected to take approximately 11 years to complete, once legal processes conclude. The federal Superfund law is based on the guiding principle that polluters, not taxpayers, pay the cost of cleanup. This $1.38 billion cleanup project will be paid for by those responsible for the pollution.