EPA Reaches Agreement for Cleanup of Lower Passaic River

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has announced a legal agreement with Occidental Chemical Corporation to perform engineering and design work needed to begin the cleanup of the lower 8.3 miles of the lower Passaic River.

This work, which includes sampling, evaluating technologies, and doing the engineering work necessary before physical cleanup work can begin, will be done under EPA oversight.

Occidental Chemical Corporation will also pay for the EPA’s oversight costs.

The EPA will pursue additional agreements with all of the more than 100 parties legally responsible for the contamination to ensure that the cleanup work in the lower 8.3 miles will be carried out and paid for by those responsible for the pollution as required by the Superfund law.

In March 2016, the EPA issued its final plan to remove 3.5 million cubic yards of toxic sediment from the lower 8.3 miles of the Passaic, from Newark Bay to the Newark/Belleville border, followed by capping that entire stretch of river bottom. The cleanup is estimated to cost $1.38 billion.

Design work is expected to take four years to complete. The dredging, dewatering and disposal of dredged materials, and the capping and related construction work will follow, and is expected to take an additional six years to complete.

The lower 17 miles of the Passaic River, stretching from its mouth at Newark Bay to the Dundee Dam, are part of the Diamond Alkali Superfund site.

Because of the complexity of the Passaic River contamination, the EPA divided the investigation and consideration of cleanup options into two studies – one for the 17-mile stretch of the Lower Passaic from its mouth to the Dundee Dam and the other focused on the lower 8.3 miles.

Information gained from the 17-mile study was integrated into the EPA’s Record of Decision for the cleanup of the lower 8.3 miles.

The EPA cleanup plan builds on dredging that has already occurred in two areas of the lower 17 mile stretch with high concentrations of contaminants in sediment.

In 2012, the EPA oversaw dredging in the Passaic River near the former Diamond Alkali facility in Newark. About 40,000 cubic yards of the most highly dioxin contaminated sediment were removed, treated and then transported by rail to licensed disposal facilities out of state.

In 2013, the EPA oversaw dredging of approximately 16,000 cubic yards of highly contaminated sediment from a half-mile stretch of the Passaic River that runs by Riverside County Park North in Lyndhurst, N.J. This area is located about 11 miles north of the river mouth and outside of the lower eight miles addressed in today’s announcement.

The cleanup plan requires the permanent removal from the river of approximately 24,000 pounds of mercury, 6,600 pounds of PCBs, 1,300 pounds of DDT, a pesticide, and 13 pounds of highly toxic dioxin.

Sediment will be dewatered and transported, likely by train, for disposal. Dredged sediment will be sent to licensed, permitted facilities designed to accept the type of contaminants in the sediment.

After dredging, the entire lower 8.3 miles of the river will be capped bank-to-bank. The cap will isolate the remaining contaminated sediment, effectively eliminating the movement of a major source of contamination to the rest of the river and Newark Bay.

It will be monitored and maintained to ensure that the cleanup remains protective. In the 1.7 miles closest to Newark Bay, deeper dredging will occur to allow current commercial navigation to continue.

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