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Sunday, April 27, 2014

Seven Acre Site along the Passaic River Contaminated with PCBs and Volatile Organic Compounds

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has added the Riverside Industrial Park in Newark, New Jersey to the Superfund National Priorities List of the country’s most hazardous waste sites. After a 2009 spill of oily material from the industrial park into the Passaic River, the EPA discovered that chemicals, including benzene, mercury, chromium and arsenic, were improperly stored at the site. The agency took emergency actions to prevent further release of these chemicals into the river. Further investigation showed that soil, ground water and tanks at the Riverside Industrial Park are contaminated with volatile organic compounds and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).

Benzene, mercury, chromium and arsenic are all highly toxic and can cause serious damage to people’s health and the environment. Many volatile organic compounds are known to cause cancer in animals and can cause cancer in people. Polychlorinated biphenyls are chemicals that persist in the environment and can affect the immune, reproductive, nervous and endocrine systems and are potentially cancer-causing.

EPA proposed the site to the Superfund list in September 2012 and encouraged the public to comment during a 60-day public comment period. After considering public comments and receiving the support of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection for listing the site, the EPA is putting it on the Superfund list.

“The EPA has kept people out of immediate danger from this contaminated industrial park and can now develop long-term plans to protect the community,” said Judith A. Enck, EPA Regional Administrator. “By adding the site to the Superfund list, the EPA can do the extensive investigation needed to determine the best ways to clean up the contamination and protect public health.”

Since the early 1900s, the Riverside Industrial Park, at 29 Riverside Avenue in Newark, has been used by many businesses, including a paint manufacturer, a packaging company and a chemical warehouse. The site covers approximately seven acres and contains a variety of industrial buildings, some of which are vacant. In 2009, at the request of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, the EPA responded to an oil spill on the Passaic River that was eventually traced to the Riverside Avenue site. The state and the city of Newark requested the EPA’s help in assessing the contamination at the site and performing emergency actions to identify and stop the source of the spill.

The EPA plugged discharge pipes from several buildings and two tanks that were identified as the source of the contamination. In its initial assessment of the site, the EPA also found ten abandoned 12,000 to 15,000 gallon underground storage tanks containing hazardous waste, approximately one hundred 3,000 to 10,000 gallon aboveground storage tanks, two tanks containing oily waste, as well as dozens of 55-gallon drums and smaller containers. These containers held a variety of hazardous industrial waste and solvents. Two underground tanks and most of the other containers were removed by the EPA in 2012.

The EPA periodically proposes sites to the Superfund list and, after responding to public comments, designates them as final Superfund sites. The Superfund final designation makes them eligible for funds to conduct long-term cleanups.

The Superfund program operates on the principle that polluters should pay for the cleanups, rather than passing the costs to taxpayers. After sites are placed on the Superfund list of the most contaminated waste sites, the EPA searches for parties responsible for the contamination and holds them accountable for the costs of investigations and cleanups. The search for the parties responsible for the contamination at the Riverside Industrial Park site is ongoing.
Jon L. Gelman of Wayne NJ is the author NJ Workers’ Compensation Law (West-Thompson) and co-author of the national treatise, Modern Workers’ Compensation Law (West-Thompson). For over 4 decades the Law Offices of Jon L Gelman  1.973.696.7900  have been representing injured workers and their families who have suffered occupational accidents and illnesses.

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