Federal officials have announced the first phase of an $80M plan to remove 200,000 cubic yards of the contaminated sediment in the Passaic River, which the EPA dubbed the second most polluted in the nation in 1970
NEWARK —The public should have a say in the effort to remove dioxin from the bottom of the lower Passaic River in Newark, a panelist said Wednesday at a forum on the city’s industrial legacy.
Five experts placed Newark’s environmental challenges in historical, legal and social context at an event at the Newark Museum. It came two days after federal officials announced the first phase of an $80 million plan to remove 200,000 cubic yards of the contaminated sediment.
The questions facing the community, the government and the companies responsible for paying for the cleanup included: How clean is clean enough? How are we going to get there? What will be there after we’re done?
“The public needs to be involved in that decision-making,” said Steve Gold, director of the Rutgers University Environmental Law Clinic.
In 1970, the Environmental Protection Agency ranked the Passaic River the second most polluted in the country. The Diamond Alkali plant on the banks of the river manufactured herbicides such as “Agent Orange” from 1951 until 1969. Dioxin, one of the most toxic chemicals, was a byproduct of the process.
“Residents tell stories of playing on piles of Agent Orange or watching workers breaking up Agent Orange in the Passaic River,” said Ana Baptista, environmental and planning projects director for the Ironbound Community Corporation. They later reported tumors and reproductive problems, she said.
The forum was part of a series on history and the environment organized by the New Jersey Council for the Humanities. The next forum is 6:30 p.m. Nov. 16 in Trenton.