Passaic river to finally get cleaned up

The Passaic River, one of the most polluted waterways in America, will undergo a limited cleanup under a plan to be announced Monday by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The work, described as the first phase of a wider cleanup, will focus on especially toxic “hotspots” near the former Diamond Shamrock manufacturing plant in Newark. Through the 1950s and 1960s, the plant discharged dioxin, among the deadliest pollutants, directly into the water.

“This is not the total cleanup you want, but it starts the process instead of everyone continuing to fight with lawsuits while this stuff continues to move from the hotspots, down the river and into the bays and oceans,” said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club. “We’ve been waiting 40 years for a shovel to get into the ground on a clean-up.”

U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg, in a statement, called the plan “great news for the Passaic River and the dozens of communities along its banks.” EPA spokeswoman Mary Mears declined to provide details, saying some aspects of the plan had yet to be worked out. But she said the work to be announced Monday “will be a very significant step toward cleaning up the Passaic.”Tittel, who said he spoke with officials in the EPA and the state Department of Environmental Protection, said the work will not involve traditional dredging, which can stir up contaminated silt. Instead, the EPA plans to use another, cleaner method for removing as much as nine feet of silt from the top layer. The lower Passaic has been a federal Superfund site since the early 1980s.

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