Dupont Pompton Lake Pollution May Be Headed Downstream
DEP Scientists’ Questions Could Prompt Feds to Expand DuPont Cleanup Scope
Trenton — New Jersey state scientists have pointed to evidence that mercury from a toxic waste site at Pompton Lakes is migrating down the Ramapo and Wanaque Rivers through contaminated sediment, fish and wildlife, according to agency documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). These documents surface just as federal agencies are reviewing the DuPont dredging plans to determine their ecological adequacy.
Pollution from the old E.I. DuPont De Nemours & Company ammunition plant has proven to be more than a 20-year long nightmare for the 450 homes exposed to deadly vapors and other effects. Now it appears that this pollution nightmare may be spreading.
State Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) scientists found much higher levels of mercury in Pompton Lake fish than found elsewhere, raising red flags about bio-availability of the mercury and downriver sediment pollution. They said the ecological assessment in the DuPont plan to dredge a 26-acre section of Acid Brook Delta, a small part of the 260-acre polluted Pompton Lake, was “misleading” particularly in characterizing data on mercury in fish tissue. Moreover, DEP calculated a sediment cleanup standard needed to protect fish and wildlife but DuPont’s plan did not incorporate that standard.
The adjoining Ramapo and Wanaque watersheds are affected by contaminated sediment flow as are their fish and wildlife, which bio-accumulate mercury through the food chain. The current DuPont dredging plan only addresses a small portion (10%) of the Lake and does not consider downriver sediment impacts.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service are now considering and must both sign off on this plan. PEER is urging Fish & Wildlife scientists to revisit the DEP standard during their review of the DuPont plan.
“These federal oversight agencies must look at these DEP findings and should conduct a de novo review of the scientific basis for the DuPont cleanup plan,” stated New Jersey PEER Director Bill Wolfe, noting that DEP had denied him access to these internal scientific documents under the state Open Public Records Act, claiming they were “deliberative” but had previously released these same documents to a different requester. “Right now we are a critical juncture in the future of Pompton Lakes.”
The DuPont plan is supposed to be based upon a site-specific ecological standard designed to protect fish and wildlife from the bio-accumulative effects of mercury in sediments. Federal review could expand the scope of the proposed cleanup and could also find additional injuries to natural resources for which DuPont must compensate the public.
For more than a century, DuPont’s operations poured heavy metals and other toxins into Pompton Lake. The plume of pollution has spread to groundwater underlying homes and businesses, causing vapor intrusion problems.