NEW YORK – Today, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Deputy Regional Administrator Walter Mugdan, Rep. Donald Payne, Jr., Rep. Josh gottheimerShawn M. LaTourette, Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP), Captain Bill Sheehan of Hackensack Riverkeeper and other officials gathered to announce that the EPA is adding the Lower Hackensack River in Bergen and Hudson counties to the Superfund National Priorities List (NPL). The site had been proposed for listing in March this year. Nationally, the EPA is adding five sites to its NPL and is proposing to add two more that pose a significant risk to human health and the environment.
“Including the Lower Hackensack River on the National Priorities List will unlock the federal tools and resources needed to return this valuable waterway to the community,” said regional administrator Lisa F. Garcia. “New Jersey’s industrial past helped build this country, but the weight of that legacy has been borne unevenly by overburdened and underserved communities. We are committed to restoring this natural resource and working with our state leaders, local and community to get the job done.”
“I am pleased to see the EPA taking action to initiate the Lower Hackensack River Cleanup, benefiting our communities, families and the environment,” said Senator Bob Menendez. “New Jersey has more Superfund sites than any other state in the country, which is why I fought for the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to not only include $3.5 billion in additional credits for the program, but, with the reduction of inflation. Act, also reinstated the Superfund Tax on polluting industries to provide the program with a stable revenue stream. A strong Superfund program is essential to transforming all communities impacted by toxic contamination.
“As the state with the most Superfund sites in the nation, New Jersey was harmed by legacy pollution and residents had to endure the harmful effects of toxic air and toxic water,” said Senator Cory Booker. “With the Lower Hackensack River finally added to the Superfund National Priorities List, our state will receive new tools and resources to clean up and restore one of our state’s most valuable waterways. I am especially grateful to the advocates, organizations and government officials who have worked tirelessly to make this announcement a reality.
“The EPA prioritizing the cleanup of our Lower Hackensack River here in North Jersey is great news. I led federal efforts to restore the river to its current contaminated state because our communities deserve better,” said Congressman Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ-09). “I worked closely with the EPA to ensure that the Lower Hackensack cleanup process was prioritized. I have also strongly supported the efforts of the Murphy administration to hold its end of the bargain in this endeavor. I am grateful for the work of our partners at the federal, state and local levels to make this progress possible. Together we will restore the Lower Hackensack River to its former glory.
“It’s great to see the Lower Hackensack River added to the EPA Superfund National Priorities List,” said Representative Donald M. Payne, Jr. “A few of my New Jersey House colleagues and I wrote a letter to the EPA in July 2021 asking the agency to designate the river as a Superfund priority. This action shows the Biden administration’s continued commitment to protecting and restoring the environment. Now New Jersey can get the funding and support needed to clean up the Lower Hackensack River and create an environmental space that all residents can enjoy.
“After years of struggling to clean up and protect our local waters, the Lower Hackensack River has now been officially included in the federal government’s Superfund cleanup program. As co-chair of the Problem Solvers Caucus, I fought hard to include additional investments in the Superfund program in the bipartisan infrastructure bill that I helped shape and pass. It invests heavily in cleaning up Superfund sites, making it one of the largest investments in American history to tackle pollution in communities across the country. This will help protect our water, wildlife, air, open spaces, and most importantly, our children and families,” said Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5).
“The official Superfund designation for the Hackensack River is a critical step for the Garden State that will accelerate the cleanup and restoration of one of our most precious natural resources,” says Shawn M. LaTourette, who filed for listing of the federal superfund immediately after his confirmation as New Jersey’s Environmental Protection Commissioner last year. “Governor Phil Murphy, Lt. Governor Sheila Oliver and our administration are committed to quickly assessing and cleaning up the Hackensack for all who live, work and play in its watershed. We thank Administrator Regan, Regional Administrator Garcia, Congressmen Pascrell and Gottheimer, and the many EPA, county, local, and nonprofit partners who have championed this river and made this moment possible. . Although we are only at the beginning, there is abundant light at the end of this river.
The Lower Hackensack River Site, which extends approximately 18.75 river miles from the Oradell Dam to near the mouth of the river at Newark Bay, and its associated wetlands and surrounding area, has been a center of industrial activity for over 200 years. As a result, decades of sewage and industrial discharges into the river and its tributaries have contaminated river sediments. Previous studies and investigations show that the river contains sediments contaminated with arsenic, lead, chromium, mercury, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) compounds and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).
The Hackensack River is part of the New York Harbor and New Jersey estuary and is home to over 30 species designated as endangered or threatened and supports over 8,400 acres of wetlands. It crosses residential, commercial, industrial and public areas. Due to the high levels of contamination found in fish and crabs throughout the Newark Bay complex, including the tidal Hackensack River, the NJDEP has issued several advisories on recreational and fishing activities on the river.
There are thousands of contaminated sites across the country due to past practices of indiscriminate dumping, storage or disposal of contamination. President Biden’s bipartisan Infrastructure Act will accelerate the EPA’s work to help communities clean up these contaminated sites through a $3.5 billion investment in the Superfund repair program and restore excise taxes on chemicals from the Superfund, making it one of the largest investments in American history to address legacy pollution. This historic investment strengthens EPA’s ability to address threats to human health and the environment. EPA has already taken steps to clear the backlog of 49 contaminated sites awaiting funding to begin remediation.
EPA nominates sites to the Superfund National Priorities List based on science-based determination of risk to people and the environment, in accordance with the Global Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act and the national oil and hazardous substances pollution contingency plan. Before the EPA adds a site to the Superfund National Priorities List, a site must meet EPA requirements and be proposed for addition to the Federal Register list, subject to a comment period. public for 60 days. EPA will add the site to the Superfund National Priorities List if it continues to meet listing requirements after the public comment period closes and if the agency has responded to all comments.
Thanks to Superfund cleanups, communities are now using previously destroyed properties for a variety of purposes, including retail, offices, public parks, residences, warehouses and solar power generation. In 2021, the EPA collected economic data from 650 Superfund sites. In these sites, there are 10,230 companies operating in these sites, 246,000 people employed, approximately $18.6 billion in revenue earned by employees, and $65.8 billion in sales generated by companies.
For more information on the Superfund and the Superfund National Priorities List, please visit: https://www.epa.gov/superfund.
For Federal Register notices and supporting documents for the Superfund National Priorities List and proposed sites, please visit:
Proposed New Sites and New Superfund National Priority List Sites
For more information and context of the site, visit the Lower Hackensack River Superfund Site Profile Page.
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