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Dredging Begins to Remove 20,000 Cubic Yards of Highly Contaminated Mud from Lyndhurst Section of the Passaic River; $20 Million Project to be Paid by Various Companies

Release Date: 08/07/2013
Contact Information: Elias Rodriguez, (212) 637-3664, rodriguez.elias@epa.gov

      (New York, NY) U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck was joined today by Congressmember Bill Pascrell, Jr., New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin, Bergen County Executive Kathleen A. Donovan, Mayor of Lyndhurst Robert Giangeruso and other dignitaries as she announced that work has begun to remove approximately 20,000 cubic yards of highly contaminated sediment from a half-mile stretch of the Passaic River that runs by Riverside County Park North in Lyndhurst, New Jersey. The cleanup is necessary because high levels of contaminants, including dioxin, PCBs and mercury, are present in the sediment and can have serious impacts on people’s health. The $20 million cleanup is being paid for by 70 companies considered potentially responsible for contamination of the lower Passaic River. The cleanup will be conducted by the companies with EPA oversight.

      “The level of contamination in this area of river sediment is very high and the EPA is ensuring it doesn’t move and contaminate other areas of the Lower Passaic River,” said EPA Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck. “This cleanup removes some of the worst contamination in the Passaic River while the EPA continues to develop long-term cleanup plans for a 17-mile stretch of the Lower Passaic River between the Dundee Dam and Newark Bay.”

      New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin said, “The cleanup of the entire Passaic River is a top environmental priority of the Christie Administration. Our goal is to restore this river to one that can be a swimmable and fishable natural resource and an economic engine to benefit towns like Lyndhurst and cities like Newark and other urban communities along this once great river. We particularly look forward to the completion of the EPA’s Focused Feasibility Study by the end of this year to outline options to clean up the entire 8 miles of the lower Passaic River.’’

      Twenty-thousand cubic yards of highly contaminated sediment will be removed from the river and a protective cap will be placed over the approximately 5.6-acre excavated area. The cap will be approximately two feet thick and consist of four layers of stone, fabric, sand and a layer of activated carbon. The cap will be monitored and maintained to ensure that it remains protective while a final cleanup plan for the lower 17 miles of the Passaic River is developed by the EPA. All work will be conducted from barges on the river and the sediment will be transported by the barges downriver to a processing facility and then disposed of out-of-state. No equipment or dredged sediment will be placed in or transported through the park or local streets. Air and water quality will be monitored during the work. Prior to finalizing its plan to remove the highly contaminated sediment from this area of the river, the EPA held a public meeting for Lyndhurst residents and has been working with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, local officials and community organizations to keep the public informed. The work is expected to be completed by the end of 2013.

      The sediment of the Lower Passaic River, which extends for about 17 miles from Newark Bay to the Dundee Dam in Garfield, is contaminated with a variety of hazardous substances, including dioxin, PCBs and mercury. A long-term study of contaminated sediment in the entire 17 miles of the Lower Passaic River is being conducted. During the investigation, an area of surface sediment containing high concentrations of contaminants, including dioxin, was found in mud adjacent to Riverside County Park. The EPA reached agreement in June 2012 with 70 parties potentially responsible for the contamination in this area to conduct the work. A plan to address the lower eight miles of the river, which are known to be the most contaminated, is currently under development and the EPA expects to propose a cleanup plan for this section of the river by the end of 2013.

      Additional information on the lower Passaic River restoration project is available at http://www.epa.gov/region02/superfund/npl/diamondalkali/ or http://www.ourpassaic.org.