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State of New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 4, 2016

Contact: Bob Considine (609) 292-2994
Lawrence Hajna (609) 984-1795
Caryn Shinske (609) 984-1795

 
 

CHRISTIE ADMINISTRATION’S SELECTED REMEDIATION OPTION FOR
LOWER PASSAIC RIVER IS FINALIZED BY EPA 

PLAN CALLS FOR DREDGING, CAPPING AND DISPOSAL OF CONTAMINATED
MATERIALS TO OUT-OF-STATE FACILITIES

(16/11) TRENTON – The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today issued its final Record of Decision for the Christie Administration’s selected remediation plan for the Lower Passaic River, a major step in the long-awaited cleanup of a contaminated eight-mile section of this vital waterway that was once an economic engine for the state and nation.

DEP Commissioner Bob Martin joined EPA Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck and other local and federal officials for the announcement today in Newark. The DEP issued a letter of concurrence to EPA last week, calling for the engineered, bank-to-bank capping of the lower 8.3 miles of the river, and the dredging of approximately 3.5 million cubic yards of material to prevent flooding and enable future navigational use of the lower 1.7 miles of the river.

Additionally, none of the dredged material will be disposed in local landfills or in Newark Bay. The material will be taken to out-of-state treatment facilities or landfills. The Christie Administration’s position has been that off-site disposal is the only viable option, so that the dredged, contaminated sediment is permanently removed from the community and properly secured in an appropriate facility.

“The remediation of the Passaic River has been a priority for the Christie Administration and the Record of Decision for this clean-up plan is the culmination of decades of studies and analyses and efforts, with cooperative efforts from multiple interests mutually working toward the common goal of restoring the river. EPA Region 2 has been a tremendous partner in this effort,” Commissioner Martin said.

“This workable, realistic remedy will reduce the ongoing threat to public health and the environment and, ultimately, will result in our goal of spurring economic growth along the Passaic River and throughout Northern New Jersey.”

“The Passaic River has been seriously damaged by years of pollution,” added EPA Administrator Enck. “Extraordinarily high concentrations of dioxin, PCBs, heavy metals and pesticides have robbed the people of New Jersey from being able to use this natural resource. EPA’s cleanup plan will improve water quality, protect public health, revitalize waterfront areas and create hundreds of new jobs. This plan is one of the most comprehensive in the nation and will help restore a badly damaged river.”

The EPA’s announcement of the proposed remedy in April, 2014 came after years of study by EPA and its contractors, as well as detailed peer review by the EPA’s Contaminated Sediments Technical Advisory Group and its National Remedy Review Board, plus an independent team of modeling experts.

The final Record of Decision was reached after EPA’s public comment process, which included public hearings on the proposed remedy. Throughout the process, which included the development of a Focused Feasibility Study for the lower eight miles of the Passaic River, DEP worked closely with EPA to advance the project.

With the Record of Decision finalized, EPA will next seek funding for the implementation of the preferred remedy from the companies it deems responsible for the contamination.

New Jersey’s selected cleanup remedy is based on the belief that the remedial action for the Passaic River must:

  • Remove and cap contaminated sediment to reduce the ongoing threat to human health and the environment;
  • Stop the uncontrolled release and movement of contaminated sediments into Newark Bay and other parts of the estuary;
  • Be consistent with reasonable long-term future uses of the Passaic River and adjacent areas, particularly its use as a navigable waterway;
  • Remove and treat contaminated sediments consistent with the state’s preference for out-of-state disposal to permanently and significantly reduce volume, toxicity and mobility of hazardous substances;
  • Provide for management of the waste in a manner that will not add further burden to the surrounding communities’ existing environmental issues.

The Passaic River was vital to America’s industrial engine for more than 100 years, helping to bring thousands of jobs and economic prosperity to northern New Jersey and an emerging nation. Running through one of the most densely populated areas of the state, it also served as an important natural and recreational resource.

Due to its industrial past, Passaic River sediments contain many contaminants of concern, in particular dioxins associated with the production of Agent Orange at the former Diamond Alkali site in Newark. The lower Passaic River is considered one of the most contaminated rivers in the nation.

EPA previously has conducted two “hot spot” sediment removal efforts on the lower Passaic River. In 2012, it targeted removal of 40,000 cubic yards of dioxin-contaminated sediments adjacent to the Diamond Alkali Superfund site in the Ironbound section of Newark. In 2013, EPA required that responsible parties dredge the top 2 feet of dioxin-contaminated sediments in a half-mile of mudflats along the Passaic River in Lyndhurst and cap the remaining contamination.

To view the details of EPA’s final remedy, and to view technical information regarding the need for the cleanup and different alternatives evaluated, visit: https://semspub.epa.gov/src/collection/02/AR63167

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