Lower Passaic River to Be Cleaned of Dioxin-Laden Sediment

NEWARK, New Jersey, June 25, 2008 (ENS) – The removal of contaminated sediment from the lower Passaic River took a step forward Monday when an agreement between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and two companies was signed at a park overlooking the river.

The deal requires Occidental Chemical and Tierra Solutions to remove 200,000 cubic yards of dioxin-laden material from the portion of the river directly in front of the Diamond Alkali Superfund site in downtown Newark, three and a half miles from the mouth of the Passaic.

“This removal of contaminated sediment from the Passaic is a real down payment on the river’s future,” said Alan Steinberg, EPA regional administrator. “We owe it to the people who live and work in New Jersey to return this river to the jewel it once was. Today’s agreement allows us to get the worst contaminants out of the river.”

The Lower Passaic River is a 17-mile tidal stretch from Dundee Dam to the river mouth at Newark Bay. The river has a long history of industrialization, which has resulted in degraded water quality, sediment contamination, loss of wetlands and abandoned properties along the shore.

Steinberg says EPA developed this agreement in close cooperation with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.

Occidental, one of a number of parties identified as potentially responsible for contamination of the lower Passaic River, will perform the work under EPA oversight.

The work will cost an estimated $80 million and when complete will have removed nearly half of the dioxin-contaminated sediment in the Passaic.

Dioxins are a family of 75 chlorinated chemicals that are known to cause cancer in people, according to the World Health Organization.

Lower Passaic River as it flows through
downtown Newark, New Jersey
(Photo by Mike Peters courtesy
Montclair State University)

The cleanup will be conducted in two phases. In both phases, sediment will be removed from the river in a semi-dry state, which entails using sheet piling to segregate sediment before removing it from the river using conventional earth-moving equipment. This method will ensure that sediment is not stirred up and dispersed into the river.

Clean fill will be placed over excavated areas. All aspects of the work, including monitoring requirements, engineering controls, and oversight will be spelled out in the work plans to ensure the work is done safely, effectively and with minimal impacts to surrounding communities, Steinberg said.

Phase 1 will begin immediately and will be completed in approximately two and a half years. In this first phase, 40,000 cubic yards of the most highly-contaminated sediment will be removed from an area of the river directly in front of the Diamond Alkali site. This material will be taken to one of a handful of facilities permitted to accept such waste.

In the second phase, 160,000 cubic yards of sediment from areas adjacent to the Diamond Alkali site will be removed. This material, which has lower concentrations of dioxin, will be placed in a confined disposal facility, an engineered structure designed to safely contain materials dredged from waterways.

Confined disposal facilities are widely used for managing contaminated sediment. The size and design of each such facility is site-specific, depending on the location, the nature and potential amount of sediment and how the site will be used after it is closed.

The CDF structure would be designed to hold the sediment indefinitely and could include liners, surface covers, and low permeability dike material, or cutoff walls.

The work will be done in concert with a comprehensive study assessing a 17-mile stretch of the Passaic River and the evaluation of an early action to further address contamination in the lower eight-mile stretch of the river.

In addition, and under a separate settlement agreement with EPA, Occidental’s work studying contamination in Newark Bay continues uninterrupted.

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