Seven Superfund Sites Slated for Cleanup in New Jersey

Fairfield

FAIRFIELD – The site sure looked contaminated – a vacant lot with high weeds sealed off by a wire fence.

And it offered some drama Friday afternoon before a press event even began. A guy driving by stopped his car, jumped out and asked, “What’s going on?”

It’s a press conference, he was told. The guy was delighted, saying he owned the building next door and that he had tried in vain for months to get the EPA on the phone.

This was his lucky day – the EPA was there.

A contingent of EPA officials headed by regional administrator Lisa F. Garcia were soon joined by Rep. Mikie Sherrill and state DEP Commissioner Shawn LaTourette to announce the clean-up of the former Unimatic Manufacturing Corp. on an industrial street just down the block from Essex County Airport. The land is contaminated with PBCs.

This is a big deal. And it is a direct result of the recently-passed $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill. This has been called a “bipartisan” bill because some Republicans in the House and Senate did vote for it, but make no mistake, it’s Democrats who pushed it through.

So it’s no surprise that Democratic lawmakers throughout New Jersey were quick off the mark Friday to highlight the announcement that the bill will fund the clean-up of 49 Superfund sites across the nation, seven of which are in New Jersey. That may seem a lot for one state – seven out of 49 – but then again, New Jersey’s history in this regard is well established.

Besides Fairfield, the other old industrial sites to be cleaned-up are in Florence, Garfield, Kearny, Newark, Springfield and Vineland. Individual cost estimates were not readily available, but $1 billion has been earmarked for the 49 projects across the country.

At the Fairfield event, Sherrill said that “this is just one of the many examples of how this infrastructure law is bringing funding directly back to NJ-11 to address real needs facing New Jersey and our families, making our communities stronger for generations to come.”

Fellow House members Frank Pallone and Bill Pascrell Jr. made similar statements.

With the “Build Back Better” bill stymied in the Senate, the infrastructure bill looms as the premier domestic accomplishment of the Biden administration. So, it’s understandable Democrats want to highlight its achievements.

LaTourette, the DEP Commissioner, noted the state’s many Superfund sites, but said that isn’t totally a bad thing.

Here’s his point.

Land was contaminated in New Jersey decades ago because the state was an industrial center- industry that helped build the nation.

We know now, of course, that those industrial centers also dumped chemicals and all sorts of other pollutants into rivers, streams and the woods, creating the current need for clean-ups, which LaTourette readily acknowledged.

So the “good” of that past industrial activity goes only so far.

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