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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Mercury: EPA Adds Pierson’s Creek Site in Newark, NJ to the Federal Superfund List

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today added the Pierson’s Creek site in Newark, New Jersey to its Superfund list of the country’s most hazardous waste sites. Past industrial activity at and in the vicinity of the site, including the manufacture of chemicals, has contaminated Pierson’s Creek, which flows into Newark Bay. Sediment in the creek contains elevated levels of mercury and other pollutants. Previous testing by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection showed that some sediment in Pierson’s Creek contained as much as 60% mercury by weight.

Exposure to mercury can damage people’s nervous systems and harm the brain, heart, kidneys, lungs and immune system. Children and pregnant women are especially vulnerable.

“Adding the Pierson’s Creek site to the Superfund list allows EPA to better protect people’s health and clean up this highly contaminated creek in Newark, NJ,” said Judith A. Enck, EPA Regional Administrator. “We have indications that sediment in Pierson’s Creek contained as much as 60% mercury by weight. Mercury in sediment can build up in the tissue of fish and other wildlife and pose a threat to people who eat them.”

The Troy Chemical Corporation has manufactured chemicals at a plant adjacent to Pierson’s Creek since 1956. The company currently manufactures antimicrobial and antifungal paint additives at that facility. Between 1956 and 1965, the Troy Chemical Corporation allegedly discharged untreated mercury–containing wastewater into Pierson’s Creek. After 1965, the wastewater was treated at the plant to address the mercury prior to its discharge into the creek. In 1976, a wastewater treatment plant was built on the site. In 2001, the EPA reached a settlement with Troy Chemical that required the facility to come into compliance with chemical reporting regulations and make improvements to reduce air and water pollution and decrease the amount of chemicals the company uses in its processes. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection has also worked to resolve air and water violations resulting from operations at the plant. Other nearby facilities may also have discharged hazardous chemicals into the creek. New Jersey supports the inclusion of the Pierson’s Creek site to the Superfund list.

The EPA periodically proposes sites to the Superfund list and, after responding to public comments, designates them as final Superfund sites. The EPA accepted public comments on the proposal of this site for 105 days and considered public input before finalizing its decision. In the proposal this site was named the Troy Chemical Corp. site. Today’s addition of this site brings the total number of final sites on the federal Superfund list in New Jersey to 115 - the most of any state in the nation.

The Superfund program operates on the principle that polluters should pay for the cleanups, rather than passing the costs to taxpayers. The EPA searches for parties legally responsible for the contamination at sites that are placed on the Superfund list and it seeks to hold those parties accountable for the costs of investigations and cleanups.

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