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Toxic Passiac River to Get 1.38 Billion Cleanup Over 10 Years

Thursday, March 10, 2016   (0 Comments)
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Nytimes.com 3/4/2016

These days in Newark, the Passaic, rather than serve as a draw, is something to be avoided, known by residents for the stench of its murky waters and the signs along the banks warning them not to eat the fish or the blue claw crabs they pull from it. “Please understand that there should be yellow crime-scene tape around the Passaic River right now,” Senator Cory A. Booker, a Democrat and the former mayor of this city, said in a news conference on Friday (March 4). On Friday (March 4), environmental officials announced that they had made final a plan to remove more than a century’s worth of industrial toxins from the lower eight miles of the Passaic, the most dangerously tainted ribbon of the river. The project, officials said, would be among the most ambitious and expensive cleanup efforts in the 35-year history of the federal Superfund program. It will cost about $1.38 billion to dredge more than 3.5 million cubic yards of sediment laden with chemicals, pesticides, heavy metals and other contaminants, said Judith A. Enck, the regional administrator of the federal Environmental Protection Agency. She noted the volume of dredged contaminants would be the largest ever under the Superfund program, enough to fill Red Bull Arena, a soccer stadium along the river, three times. The portion of the river covered in the cleanup plan, stretching from Newark Bay to the Belleville-Newark border, would then have a protective cap laid at the river bottom from bank to bank to prevent the flow of any remaining contaminants, and the noxious residue will be shipped to a licensed disposal site. The dredging on the Passaic will not start until officials have negotiated with the offending companies to either do the work or pay for it; officials have identified about 100 of them that are potentially responsible for generating and releasing the pollution. The E.P.A. removed 40,000 cubic yards of the most highly contaminated sediment in the river near the Diamond Alkali plant in 2012, officials said, and in 2013 and 2014, the agency oversaw the removal of another 16,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment from a mud flat near Lyndhurst. The plan announced on March 4 will take more than a decade to carry out, including up to four years to finish its design and an additional six years for the dredging and related construction, officials said.


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