Contaminated Pierson's Creek in Newark declared federal Superfund site

By S.P. Sullivan | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
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on September 16, 2014

This map of the site from EPA documents shows the proximity of the Troy Chemical facility to the creek.

 

NEWARK — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday declared the contaminated Pierson’s Creek in Newark’s Ironbound a federal Superfund site.

The creek, contaminated with mercury and other harmful pollutants, sits next to a plant operated by the Troy Chemical Corp. since the 1950s. According to the EPA, the company allegedly dumped untreated wastewater into the creek between 1956 and 1965, leaving the sediment laden with high levels of mercury.

Judith A. Enck, the EPA’s regional administrator, said that mercury “can build up in the tissue of fish and other wildlife and pose a threat to people who eat them.”

Exposure to mercury can damage can cause damage to the nervous system and vital organs, EPA officials said.

The Troy plant remains active at the site, where the company produces paint additives. A company spokesman on Tuesday called the declaration "unwarranted."

“Troy’s operation in Newark is an active ratable that employs more than 100 people, contributing to the economy and growth of the Ironbound – and this announcement comes at a point where the company was expanding its operations," said the spokesman, William Murray.

Murray said the EPA's statement "fails to underscore that the environmental concerns are historical and related to the previous property and business owners. ”

The EPA first targeted the site for addition to the National Priorities List, the formal name of the program, last year. The state Department of Environmental Protection has been in discussions with Troy to clean up the site since the early 1990s, EPA officials said.

“DEP has failed to get this site cleaned up in over 30 years so we hope EPA can get the job done,” Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, said after Tuesday’s announcement. “Mercury is one of the most harmful chemicals known to man and this site is a threat to public health.”

New Jersey has more Superfund sites than any other state, and Tuesday’s listing brings its tally to 115. Lawmakers and environmental groups have been raising alarm bells over a lack of funding for the program, calling for a return of an expired tax on on oil, gas and chemical companies that funded clean ups until it expired in 1995.

U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, who recently convened a Washington hearing on the program, said Tuesday it was "unfortunate" that New Jersey leads the nation in sites on the National Priorities List.

“The Superfund program is essential to rehabilitating dangerous sites and encouraging economic development," Booker said in a statement. "It is my hope that with its inclusion on the National Priorities List, Pierson’s Creek will receive the resources needed to clean up the site and create a healthier environment for Newark’s residents and economy.”

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