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EPA Proposes to Add Lower Hackensack River in Bergen and Hudson Counties, New Jersey to Superfund List

the staff of the Ridgewood blog

Hackensack NJ, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it is adding 12 sites and proposing to add another five, including the Lower Hackensack River, to the Superfund National Priorities List (NPL). The federal NPL includes sites where releases of contamination pose significant human health and environmental risks.

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“No community deserves to have contaminated sites near where they live, work, play, and go to school. Nearly 2 out of 3 of the sites being proposed or added to the priorities list are in overburdened or underserved communities,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “EPA is building a better America by taking action to clean up some of the nation’s most contaminated sites, protect communities’ health, and return contaminated land to safe and productive reuse for future generations.”

“The industrial activities of New Jersey’s past have helped build America, but it has also left behind a legacy of contamination that unfairly burdens communities of color,” said EPA Regional Administrator Lisa F. Garcia. “By proposing to add the Lower Hackensack River to the National Priorities List, EPA is showing its commitment to overburdened and underserved communities – no project is too big, and America’s natural resources are for everyone to enjoy.”

The Lower Hackensack River site, identified as the 18.75-mile stretch of the river between the Oradell Dam and near the mouth of the river in Newark Bay, its associated wetlands, and the surrounding area, has been a center of industrial activities for more than 200 years. As a result, decades of sewage and industrial discharges into the river and its tributaries have contaminated river sediments. Prior studies and investigations show that the river contains sediments contaminated with arsenic, lead, chromium, mercury, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon compounds (PAHs), and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).

The Hackensack River is part of the New York-New Jersey Harbor Estuary and is a habitat to over 30 designated endangered or threatened species and home to over 8,400 acres of wetlands. The area of the river being proposed runs through residential, commercial, industrial and public land. Due to the elevated contamination levels in fish throughout the Newark Bay Complex, including the tidal Hackensack River, NJDEP has placed multiple advisories on the river’s recreational and fishing activities.

Thousands of contaminated sites, from landfills, processing plants, to manufacturing facilities exist nationally due to hazardous waste being dumped, left out in the open, or otherwise improperly managed. President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will accelerate EPA’s work to help communities clean up these contaminated sites with a $3.5 billion investment in the Superfund Remedial Program and reinstates the Superfund chemical excise taxes, making it one of the largest investments in American history to address legacy pollution. This historic investment strengthens EPA’s ability to tackle threats to human health and the environment, and EPA has already set action in motion to clear the backlog of the 49 contaminated sites which had been awaiting funding to start remedial action.

Superfund cleanups provide health and economic benefits to communities. The program is credited for significant reductions in both birth defects and blood-lead levels among children living near sites, and research has shown residential property values increase up to 24 percent within three miles of sites after cleanup.

Further, thanks to Superfund cleanups, communities are now using previously blighted properties for a wide range of purposes, including retail businesses, office space, public parks, residences, warehouses, and solar power generation. As of 2021, EPA has collected economic data on 650 Superfund sites. At these sites, there are 10,230 businesses operating on these sites, 246,000 people employed, an estimated $18.6 billion in income earned by employees, and $65.8 billion in sales generated by businesses.


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