On September 7, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Deputy Regional Administrator Walter Mugdan, Representative Donald Payne, Jr., Representative Josh Gottheimer, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) Commissioner Shawn M. LaTourette, the Hackensack Riverkeeper Captain Bill Sheehan and other officials joined together to announce that EPA is adding the Lower Hackensack River in Bergen and Hudson counties to the Superfund National Priorities List.
“The inclusion of the Lower Hackensack River on the National Priorities List will unlock the federal tools and resources needed to return this precious waterway to the community,” said EPA Regional Administrator Lisa F. Garcia. “New Jersey’s industrial past helped build this country, but the weight of that legacy has been unequally carried by overburdened and underserved communities. We are committed to restoring this natural resource and working with our state, local and community leaders to get the job done.”
The Lower Hackensack River site, stretching approximately 18.75 river miles from the Oradell Dam to near the river mouth at Newark Bay, along with its associated wetlands and the surrounding area, has been a center of industrial activities for more than 200 years. As a result, decades of sewage and industrial discharges into the river and its tributaries have contaminated river sediments. Prior studies and investigations show that the river contains sediments contaminated with arsenic, lead, chromium, mercury, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon compounds (PAHs) and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).
“After years of fighting to clean up and protect our local waters, the Lower Hackensack River has now officially been included in the federal government’s Superfund clean-up program,” said Rep. Gottheimer, adding “This will help protect our water, our wildlife, our air, our open spaces, and — most importantly — our children and families.”
The Hackensack River is part of the New York–New Jersey Harbor Estuary and is habitat to over 30 designated endangered or threatened species and home to over 8,400 acres of wetlands. It runs through residential, commercial, industrial and public areas. Due to the elevated contamination levels found in fish and crab throughout the Newark Bay Complex, including the tidal Hackensack River, NJDEP has placed multiple advisories on the river’s recreational and fishing activities.
“The official Superfund designation for the Hackensack River is a critical milestone for the Garden State that will hasten the cleanup and restoration of one of our most precious natural resources,” said Shawn M. LaTourette, who requested the federal superfund listing immediately upon his confirmation as New Jersey Commissioner of Environmental Protection last year. “Governor Phil Murphy, Lt. Governor Sheila Oliver, and our Administration are committed to the swift assessment and cleanup of the Hackensack for all those who live, work and recreate in its watershed,” LaTourette noted, adding “While we may just be at the beginning, there is abundant light at the end of this river.”
EPA proposes sites to the Superfund National Priorities List based on a scientific determination of risks to people and the environment, consistent with the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act and the National Oil and Hazardous Substances Pollution Contingency Plan. Before EPA adds a site to the Superfund National Priorities List, a site must meet EPA’s requirements and be proposed for addition to the list in the Federal Register, subject to a 60-day public comment period. EPA will add the site to the Superfund National Priorities List if it continues to meet the listing requirements after the public comment period closes and the agency has responded to any comments.
For information about Superfund and the Superfund National Priorities List, visit: www.epa.gov/superfund.