The Trump Shutdown has forced EPA’s scheduled public meeting on the proposed plan to remove contaminated sediment from the waterways at the Universal Oil Products Superfund site to be canceled. The major contaminants in the Berry’s Creek Study Area are mercury and PCBs and chromium, which are at high levels in the water and sediment and are also found in the plant and animal life. Mercury levels in Berry's Creek, are among the highest ever recorded in a freshwater ecosystem in the United States, with levels up to 760 ppm. Naphthalene was also recorded at 1.2 million parts per billion, which is likely a human carcinogen that can also cause hemolytic anemia, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and blood in the urine.
“The Trump shutdown means the Meadowlands will continue to get contaminated. Delaying the cleanup at the Universal Oil site means more toxins will get into the environment, into fisheries, and into birds. If we stall any longer, more contamination will be leaking from the site. Toxic chemical such as mercury in the Hackensack River have been robbing us of our use of the River and the Meadowlands for far too long. These contaminants have also been impacting wildlife in a unique, ecological area,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “More and more people are using the Hackensack River for recreation and it needs to be cleaned-up. We have been trying to get a good cleanup plan for the Universal Oil site for about 30 years and are glad that EPA is finally having a meeting, but now it is cancelled.”
The EPA will begin shutdown procedures which includes over 13,000 employees to be furloughed under a shutdown, and more than 750 will continue to work with no pay to protect life and property. Also affected are inspections for Superfund sites, drinking water systems and hazardous waste management.
“Trump’s shutdown will not only hurt our parks but will delay proper cleanup at some of New Jersey’s most toxic Superfund sites. In a government shut down, no one will be monitoring the air or our drinking water to make sure it’s clean. Almost 95% of the staff at the EPA that safeguard our clean air and water and keep our environment safe will be sent home. Toxic Superfund sites, drinking water systems, and more may fully not be monitored. EPA cleanup for contaminated sites will be delayed causing communities to remain contaminated and future use for the land to be postponed,” said Tittel. “Without enforcement, it will be more likely to have accidents or deliberate dumping of chemicals. Polluters are not going to get caught if enforcement is sent home.”
The government shutdown has already taken a toll on national parks, public land, and monuments. Most of these national sites have remained open but unstaffed, and that has led to a buildup of trash and human waste as visitors continue to arrive. 3 people have already been killed while visiting a national park since the shutdown.
“With national parks basically closed while people still get access, there has been serious damage going on. Since the shutdown, our parks are seeing an overflow of garbage, vandalism, and overuse. If visitors get lost, there will be no one to come and get them shutdown. Closing our National Parks, monuments and other open spaces also hurts our economy because of tourism. Facilities and restaurants on these sites will be closed. said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “In his war on the environment, Trump is using the wall and budget process to stop the EPA and National Parks from functioning. This will have a damaging ripple effect to our public land, national parks, clean air and clean water.”
source New Jersey Sierra Club