The Hackensack River was recently one of five projects added to the Superfund National Priorities List (NPL) by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The EPA in its release March 17 noted the Hackensack River 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).
“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,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan.
Infrastructure Bill Money
The agency noted federal NPL sites include areas where releases of contamination pose a significant risk to either human health or the environment.
“The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passed by our Democratic Congress delivers once again,” said Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. “I commend EPA Administrator Regan…and the entire Biden Administration for their focus on environmental issues and their accessibility on local issues like this. Together we will restore the Lower Hackensack River to its former glory.”
More than 200 Years of Industrial Activity
The infrastructure law set aside funds to accelerate EPA’s work to help communities clean up contaminated sites with a $3.5 billion investment in the Superfund Remedial Program and reinstates the Superfund chemical excise taxes—a move lawmakers tout as one of the largest investments in American history to address legacy pollution.
The work on the Lower Hackensack River, identified as the 18.75-mile stretch of river between the Oradell Dam and the mouth of the river in Newark Bay, includes associated wetlands and the surrounding area.
“By proposing the Lower Hackensack River be added to the Superfund National Priorities List, this means we’ll be able to bring critical resources to boost this cleanup effort,” said Rep. Josh Gottheimer. “Now it’s time to claw those resources back to help North Jersey. With this cooperation between the State of New Jersey and the federal government, we’re working to stop further damage and contamination of North Jersey’s waters and wildlife.”
Leading the Nation in Superfund Sites
New Jersey is home to more Superfund sites than any other state in the nation, a fact which Sen. Bob Menendez highlighted in celebrating the addition of the Hackensack River to the NPL.
“I am glad to see that the EPA is including additional sites on its Superfund National Priorities List and is proposing another New Jersey site as the agency puts funding from the bipartisan infrastructure bill to use and embarks on a massive cleanup of dozens of toxic sites across the country including several in New Jersey,” said Menendez.
Updates Now Twice a Year
The Superfund NPL update is a follow through by Biden Administration commitment to update the NPL twice a year, as opposed to once per year. The Superfund Program is part of President Joe Biden’s Justice40 initiative, which aims to ensure that federal agencies deliver at least 40% of benefits from certain investments to underserved communities.
“As the state with the most Superfund sites in the nation, New Jersey has been especially harmed by legacy pollution. I am optimistic that with renewed funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, EPA is on the right track to remediating more toxic sites in America – particularly in Black, Brown, and low-income communities that disproportionately bear the brunt of toxic air, soil, and water,” echoed Sen. Cory Booker.
Rep. Albio Sires added that “the cleanup of the Lower Hackensack River is vital to the communities, stakeholders, and ecosystems within the watershed. I urge swift consideration of the Lower Hackensack River, and advocate for its inclusion on the National Priorities List of Superfund sites, so that remediation can begin.”