Congressman Bill Pascrell

Representing the 9th District of NEW JERSEY

Reps. Gottheimer, Pascrell Urge EPA Action on Elevated Pollution Levels in Hackensack River

Feb 21, 2017
Press Release
Congressmen ask EPA to finalize Hackensack River review, accelerate Superfund determination

WASHINGTON, D.C. –Following reports of elevated pollution levels in the Hackensack River from recent sediment samples, Congressmen Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) and Bill Pascrell (NJ-9) sent a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), urging swift action in collaboration with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to finalize the Agency’s review of the site and determine if it should be added to the Superfund National Priorities List. Such a determination is critical for developing a cleanup plan and holding contaminators responsible.

High levels of pollutants, including potentially cancer-causing fluoranthene, were found in sediment at several spots along the Hackensack River near industrial sites. This contamination poses a risk not only to local marine and wildlife but to the families who live and visit the area.

"The Hackensack River is in desperate need of attention and plays a key role to our local economy and ecosystem. That is why we remain deeply concerned about the potential impact of the EPA’s federal hiring freeze on environmental projects like the Hackensack River that are in urgent need of attention," the Congressmen wrote. "We urge the EPA to dedicate resources to expedite the review of the river and determine the best plan to protect the health and safety of our constituents and recover this important river. Thank you for your attention to this matter, and we look forward to working with you to protect the health and safety of our constituents."

The text of the letter sent to EPA Acting Administrator Catherine McCabe is below (link here):

February 21, 2017

Acting Administrator Catherine McCabe
Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20460

Dear Acting Administrator McCabe:

We write to express our grave concern about a recent report in The Record that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has determined there are elevated levels of toxic and hazardous compounds in the Hackensack River. This report underscores the need for immediate action to protect the health of our waterway and the safety of our constituents. As a result, we urge the EPA to work with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to finalize review of the site so it can be determined if this site should be added to the Superfund National Priorities List, which is a critical step to determining the extent of and parties responsible for contaminating the Hackensack River and an appropriate cleanup plan can be developed.

According to the report, sediment samples collected by the EPA and DEP contained as many as 20 or more contaminants affecting 22 miles of the Hackensack River. These alarming samples confirm your agency’s previous finding of elevated levels of cadmium, lead, mercury, dioxin and PCBs in the river. We are concerned about the high levels of contaminants that have been detected throughout the riverbed because they have been found in recreational areas. Additionally, we are uneased that the EPA has spent $40 million since 2008 to study mercury contamination in Berry’s Creek, a six-mile tributary of the Hackensack that has among the highest levels of mercury ever recorded in a freshwater ecosystem in the United States, and we have yet to see a cleanup plan developed.

As you know, it is the EPA’s responsibility to enforce federal clean water standards and protect residents from dangerous pollutants. Until this contaminated sediment is removed from the river, swimming will remain prohibited, and residents will be unable to enjoy eating fish and crabs from the river. In addition to the serious threat to public health that these contaminants pose, the Lower Hackensack River filters into the Meadowlands, a key spawning and nursery area for fish and an important habitat for numerous state-listed threatened and endangered species.

The Hackensack River is in desperate need of attention and plays a key role to our local economy and ecosystem. That is why we remain deeply concerned about the potential impact of the EPA’s federal hiring freeze on environmental projects like the Hackensack River that are in urgent need of attention. We urge the EPA to dedicate resources to expedite the review of the river and determine the best plan to protect the health and safety of our constituents and recover this important river.

Thank you for your attention to this matter and we look forward to working with you to protect the health and safety of our constituents.

Sincerely,

___________________                          ___________________
Josh Gottheimer                                      Bill Pascrell, Jr.      
MEMBER OF CONGRESS                   MEMBER OF CONGRESS

CC: Bob Martin, Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection