USA: EPA, Companies Ink Passaic River Cleanup Agreement

EPA, Companies Ink Passaic River Cleanup Agreement

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced that it has reached agreement with 70 companies considered potentially responsible for contamination of the lower Passaic River to remove approximately 16,000 cubic yards of highly contaminated sediment from a half-mile long area of the Passaic River in Lyndhurst, New Jersey at their expense.

High levels of contaminants, including PCBs, mercury and dioxin, are present in the sediment and can cause health effects. The work is scheduled to begin in spring 2013.

The agreement calls for the parties to remove contaminated sediment from a mud flat area near the north section of Riverside County Park, install a protective cap over the approximately five-acre excavated area and conduct lab tests of sediment treatment technologies. Based on the results, testing of treatment technologies at a larger scale may also be performed. The cap will monitored and maintained to ensure that it remains protective until a final cleanup plan for the lower 17 miles of the Passaic River is selected by the EPA. The excavated material will be disposed of in a licensed, permitted EPA-approved disposal facility if the sediment treatment technologies do not prove effective during testing.

This agreement triggers actions that will reduce exposure of people and wildlife to the highly toxic contaminants in the Passaic River sediment and keep it from spreading to other parts of the river,” said EPA Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck. “Under the Superfund agreement, the companies responsible for the contamination will conduct and pay for the work with EPA oversight, rather than passing the costs on to taxpayers.”

Dioxin can cause cancer and other serious health effects. PCBs are likely cancer-causing substances and mercury can cause serious damage to the nervous system. The highly contaminated sediment was discovered in Lyndhurst during sampling performed by the EPA and the parties in late 2011.

Superfund is the federal cleanup program established in 1980 to investigate and clean up the country’s most hazardous waste sites. The Superfund program operates on the principle that polluters should pay for the cleanups, rather than passing the costs to taxpayers. When sites are placed on the Superfund list, the EPA looks for parties responsible for the pollution and requires them to pay for the cleanups.

Under the agreement announced, the companies will conduct and pay for the cleanup work and EPA’s costs in overseeing it. The cost of the work to be performed is estimated at $20 million, in addition to the costs of EPA oversight.

The EPA will work closely with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, local officials, river and park users, the Passaic River Community Advisory Group, community organizations and Lyndhurst residents throughout the planning and cleanup process. The agency will provide information on the plans, coordinate the cleanup and minimize possible disruptions to river and park use to the extent possible.

The agreement includes a statement of work that identifies planning and reporting requirements associated with the cleanup.


Dredging Today Staff, June 19, 2012; Image: passaicremovalaction