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PO Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

For Release:
December 10, 2009

Heather Howard
Commissioner

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(609) 984-7160


 
DHSS Releases Two Reports on Pompton Lakes Groundwater Plume, Cancer Rates


 

Residents who live near a plume of contaminated groundwater from the DuPont Pompton Lakes Works site should have vapor mitigation systems installed in their homes to remove gases that may contaminate their indoor air, according to two reports released today.

 

            Currently, 368 of 450 homes affected by the recommendation have either had the mitigation systems installed or are preparing to have them installed. The report recommends that all residents participate in the program. DuPont is required to install the vapor mitigation systems at no cost to residents. Residents for more than a year have been encouraged to have the systems installed.

 

The New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS), in cooperation with the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, issued a report examining the problem of “vapor intrusion” – gases from groundwater contaminants migrating into residents’ homes – and a report analyzing cancer incidence in the community near the contamination plume.

 

Today, the Department mailed letters to approximately 450 residents of the plume area notifying them of the findings of the reports. DHSS will schedule a community meeting in the next two weeks to present the findings and answer residents’ questions.

 

DuPont operated an explosives manufacturing plant at the site from the 1880s until 1994.  Waste management practices at the plant lead to significant contamination of soils, surface water and ground water, both on and off the site.  The groundwater was contaminated with volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as trichloroethylene and tetrachloroethylene, and that contamination migrated off-site beneath a residential neighborhood.  About 450 homes are above the contaminated groundwater.

 

Because of community health concerns, the Pompton Lakes mayor asked DHSS to analyze cancer incidence in the neighborhood. 

 

The cancer incidence analysis examined overall cancer rates and rates for 13 individual types of cancer from 1979 to 2006.  The analysis found two statistically significantly elevated rates -- kidney cancer in women (but not in men) during the entire study period, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma in men (but not in women) for the years 1994-2006.  All other cancer rates were similar to statewide rates.

 

The fact that rates for the two cancers were not elevated for both men and women means no conclusive link could be established between the cancers and the groundwater contaminants, the report explains. However, the contaminants cannot be ruled out as a potential cause of the elevated rates.  Other risk factors – such as tobacco use or occupational exposures – could explain the elevations.

 

VOCs are a class of chemicals that readily evaporate at room temperature.  Gases from VOC-contaminated soils or groundwater can move through soil and seep through cracks and into basements, crawl spaces and living areas, contaminating a home’s indoor air. 

           

The DHSS vapor intrusion report found that long-term exposures to contaminants from the groundwater are not likely to be harmful to health.  However, tests conducted on the air inside residents’ homes only show the amount and type of chemicals present at one point in time, and may not reflect past and future levels of exposure.  As a result, the report recommends that all homes above the contaminated groundwater plume get a mitigation system installed to eliminate the health risk from plume contaminants.

   

Since the late 1990s, DuPont has been treating the contaminated groundwater on the site of its former manufacturing plant and pumping treated water back into the ground.  This helps prevent further spread of contaminants off-site.  The report recommends that groundwater remediation should continue in order to eliminate the vapor intrusion problem.

 

            All residents were connected to the municipal water supply by the late 1980s, eliminating potential exposures through drinking water.  In recent years, vapor intrusion has been identified as a concern in the investigation and remediation of contaminated sites nationwide.

 

            The two reports, and the citizen guides to the reports, are available on the DHSS web site at http://nj.gov/health/eoh/cehsweb/index.html. The documents also will available at the Pompton Lakes Free Public Library, 333 Wanaque Ave., and the Borough of Pompton Lakes Municipal Building, 25 Lenox Ave., both in Pompton Lakes.

 

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