TRENTON, NJ April 17, 2017--The Senate and Assembly environmental committees will hold a joint oversight hearing tomorrow concerning a resolution called SR107 to make sure one of the main companies responsible for contamination in the Passaic River pays for the clean-up. One of the main polluters responsible for contaminating the Passaic River with dioxin is trying to dodge the financial responsibility of the clean-up by filing bankruptcy.
Argentina’s state-run oil company, YPF SA, the parent company of Maxus Energy is responsible for part of the $1.38 billion or more cleanup, but is now declaring one of its key subsidiaries bankrupt.
The Passaic River is one of the nation’s most seriously contaminated bodies of water. However, we are concerned with the EPA’s final clean-up plan because it includes dredging and capping sediment contains dioxins, PCBs, mercury and other toxins without full removal and restoration. Even though we do not support the clean-up plan, nothing may get done if YPF SA files bankruptcy and backs out of paying for a clean-up. The meeting will occur at 10:00 AM in Lyndhurst at the Meadowlands Environment Center. Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club released the following statement:
“It is shameful that the companies responsible for more than 40 years of toxic pollution on the Passaic River are trying to play games to get out of a clean-up. Maxus Energy, the company who owned the Diamond Alkai Plant in Newark, is trying to back out of cleaning-up decades of pollution by filing for bankruptcy. This is serious because now there may not be any money to clean-up this toxic site. What these companies are doing is unconscionable because first they poisoned our communities, then they poisoned the River and now they are finding ways to get around the mess they made. Maxus Energy as well as other companies responsible for this contamination are trying use bankruptcy as a shield to get rid of their financial responsibility. We believe polluters should be held responsible and pay. We cannot let them get away with poisoning our people.”
“The EPA’s plan to remove toxic contamination in the Passaic River was a compromise for a lot less money and a lot less clean-up. The problem is now it may not happen with all of these companies backing out of their responsibility. According to the original Court case, the Court said that these companies are liable for a $4 billion clean-up of the lower eight miles of the Passaic River. The EPA’s plan calls for about 20 percent less contaminated river mud to be removed, which is only 3.5 million cubic yards and drops the cost from $1.7 billion to about $1.38 billion. Even though Occidental have even offered $165 million, we believe the current plan is a compromise because it is not thorough enough. If Maxus Energy doesn't pay there may not be a plan to clean-up the River at all.”
“The Diamond Alkali plant manufactured pesticides, weed killers, and Agent Orange, the defoliant used during the Vietnam War. The process of making Agent Orange required large quantities of dioxin. Dioxin is an extremely harmful substance not only to humans, but to the ecosystem as well. Dioxin from this site has been found in fish all the way down to Florida. This dangerous toxin needs to be fully removed from the River to protect not only our environment, but public health.”
“We are concerned that with the Trump Administration cutting back the Superfund program, the EPA won’t enforce this relatively weak clean-up plan and the polluters will be able to delay and get away with this all over again. The EPA’s plan includes capping, which like cleaning up a spill by putting a rug on top of it. This is only 8.3 miles so it doesn’t really address all of the contamination. This plan is dangerous because caps on a moving River will fail, while springs and sediments will leach out of the seal. We are concerned the cap won’t work and they should clean up the entire 17 miles. Capping is cheaper, but for a River that is tidal and floods it is only a matter of time before it will fail. While the polluters have delayed this clean-up, toxins keep spreading into people, waterways, and the fish that people eat. They may be sitting back and letting the contamination keep spreading so there are no hotspots to show the worst areas that need to be cleaned-up.”
“My family has been from the Ironbound section of Newark for generations. Our communities were victimized first by the disposal of dioxin in the River and now they are being threatened with more delays and inaction. That is why we need the legislature to step in. We support the resolution for a full clean-up of all the toxins in the Passaic River to adequately protect people and the environment. The state of New Jersey needs to go back and sue against these polluters and the Christie Administration has never even filed a Natural Resource Damage claim, while there is still $140 million dollars being stolen for the budget. Polluters must pay their fair share because otherwise our communities will be left polluted.”