Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Tainted Soil Migrating

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Tainted Soil Migrating

Article excerpt

POMPTON LAKES -- The expansion of DuPont's plan to clean Pompton Lake was primarily motivated by a company study that found mercury- laden sediment had moved past the lake's dam and downstream on the Ramapo River in unknown quantities, federal environmental officials said Tuesday.

The Environmental Protection Agency has ordered the chemical giant to remove 100,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment from an area of the lake where mercury, lead and copper from the company's defunct explosives factory migrated for decades.

A 2011 study of lake depths found contaminated sediment in higher concentrations in portions of the lake downstream from its origin in Acid Brook. That finding was contrary to an earlier study, in 2007, that determined the sediment stayed put, said Phillip D. Flax, the chief of EPA's correction action and special projects section.

Flax said the study played a "very large role" in motivating the agency to expand the cleanup from 26 to 40 acres and include a variety of "hot spots" of mercury contamination that will be identified by sampling in the lake and up to three miles downstream to Riverside Park in Wayne.

The EPA also revised its plan based on public comments directing the agency to consider movement of sediment past the dam, and input from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on determining how dangerous the contamination is to aquatic life, he said.

"We believe it's a good project; we believe it's comprehensive," Flax said of the cleanup plan. "It will remove the overwhelming bulk of the mercury out of the Ramapo River-Pompton Lake system, and it will provide for long-term monitoring to ensure the remedy is effective."

A call for testing

Lisa Riggiola, a Pompton Lakes resident and leading environmental activist, said at the EPA's public information session that her group had called for mercury testing downstream for over a year.

"The residents of this community, we all knew that this was a concern, that these contaminants have moved," she said. …

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