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EPA Asks Community for Input on Passaic River Cleanup Proposal

Release Date: 11/19/2008
Contact Information: David Kluesner (212) 637-3653, kluesner.dave@epa.gov

(New York, N.Y.) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing a cleanup plan for the first stage of a two-phased project to remove dioxin-laden sediment from the lower Passaic River. The agency is seeking public input on the proposal, which implements a June 2008 agreement between EPA, Occidental Chemical Corporation and Tierra Solutions, Inc. (Tierra) under which the companies agreed to remove, in two phases, a total of 200,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment from the portion of the river directly in front of the Diamond Alkali Superfund site in downtown Newark. That agreement calls for 40,000 cubic yards of the most contaminated sediments to be removed, treated and disposed of at one of a handful of facilities permitted nationwide to accept such waste. The agreement also requires the companies to remove an additional 160,000 cubic yards of sediment with lower concentrations of dioxin and place them in a confined disposal facility. This second phase will have a separate proposed plan and will undergo its own engineering study. Details of today’s proposal will be discussed at a public meeting on Tuesday, December 2.

“When completed, we will have removed the most heavily contaminated sediment from the lower Passaic and will be taking a huge step forward in keeping the river on a course toward a cleaner, healthier future,” said Alan J. Steinberg, EPA Regional Administrator. “This means that we are permanently removing a source of contamination that poses a potential risk to people’s health and the environment. It is a monumental step toward the eventual cleanup of the entire river.”

Four options for sediment removal and processing were subjected to an engineering evaluation and cost analysis required by EPA. The option that EPA, in consultation with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP), prefers and is proposing will cost approximately $45 million and involves mechanical dredging of sediment with mechanical processing to dewater sediment on land nearby. Mechanical removal of sediment is preferred because it is well-suited to handle the abundant debris in the sediment that will be removed in this first phase of cleanup work, has a higher probability for allowing the companies to meet an ambitious schedule, and is more effective at removing material in close proximity to the existing shoreline structures such as floodwalls and bulkheads. EPA is proposing that the sediment be processed and dewatered using a mechanical process.

EPA’s proposal calls for sheet piling to segregate the sediment to be removed from the rest of the river so that it does not get dispersed back into the river, and so that the sediment can be removed using a dredge with a mechanical bucket or scoop. The mechanical dredge, operated from a barge, would dig sediment up and place it on another barge within the sheet pile enclosure. The barge would then move to a processing site within the sheet pile enclosure and unload using excavators. Transportation methods and the selection of off-site treatment and disposal facilities will be determined when the project is designed. Monitoring will be conducted before, during, and after the project. Details of this work will be defined during the design phase of the project, and will include plans for monitoring of river water quality, air, water treatment discharge, and worker and community health and safety.

EPA also today released a draft of a community involvement plan for the first phase of the lower Passaic River contaminated sediment removal. EPA relies on public input to ensure that the concerns of the community are considered in selecting an effective cleanup plan. The draft community involvement plan is based in large part on interviews with key stakeholders and it will guide community outreach and input throughout the cleanup. EPA will consider public comment on the draft plan and finalize it concurrent with selection of final plan for Phase 1 cleanup.

EPA, in consultation with the NJDEP, will select the final plan for Phase 1 cleanup after reviewing and considering all comments submitted during a 30-day public comment period, which ends on December 19, 2008. The December 2, 2008 public meeting will be held at 7:00 pm at the Hawkins Street Elementary School located at 8 Hawkins Street in the Ironbound section of Newark.

Copies of the Proposed Plan for the Lower Passaic River Phase 1 Removal Action, Engineering Evaluation/Cost Analysis and Community Involvement Plan are available on-line at http://www.epa.gov/region02/superfund/npl/diamondalkali or by visiting the information repository for the removal project at:

U.S. EPA Region 2 Superfund Records Center
Building 205
2890 Woodbridge Avenue
Edison, NJ 08837-3679
Phone: (732) 906-6980

Newark Public Library
NJ Reference Section
5 Washington Street
Newark, NJ 07101
Phone: (201) 733-7775

Interested individuals can send comments, no later than December 19, 2008, to:

Elizabeth Butler, Project Manager
Passaic River Team
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
290 Broadway, 19th Floor
New York, New York 10007-1866
Telephone: (212) 637-4396
Fax: (212) 637-4439
Email: butler.elizabeth@epa.gov

For a Google Earth aerial view of the Passaic Phase 1 and Phase 2 project area go to: http://www.epa.gov/region02/passaicriver/phases1and2cleanupmap.kmz
(You must have Google Earth installed on your computer to view the map. To download Google Earth, visit http://earth.google.com/download-earth.html ).

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