Pascrell, Gottheimer, and Sierra Club Stand Up Against Trump’s Cuts to EPA and Superfund
GARFIELD, N.J. - U.S. Representatives Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ-09), Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ-05), New Jersey Sierra Club, and local environmental groups held a press conference today raising awareness to the drastic nature of President Trump’s funding reductions for environmental protections, including for toxic Superfund sites. The event focused on the Trump Administration’s budget cuts and weakening of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), including programs to clean-up toxic sites. The event took place along the banks of the Passaic River, which is one of the nation’s most seriously contaminated bodies of water. The Garfield Groundwater Contamination Superfund site was also nearby, which is a Superfund site with 3,640 gallons of chromic acid spilled from an underground tank at the now defunct E.C. Electroplating Plant. Under Trump’s budget, funding for Superfund sites would be reduced by 30 percent, funding for hundreds of other toxic sites would be reduced by 43 percent, and funding to address lead would be reduced by 30 percent.
“As home to the largest number of Superfund toxic-waste sites in the nation, New Jersians know the importance of making sure polluters, not taxpayers, pay for the clean-up. From the Passaic River’s contamination from Agent Orange to Garfield’s chromium polluting the groundwater, we know these sites are expensive to make whole again. But the risk these public hazards pose to families demand our attention,” said Rep. Pascrell. “President Trump’s ongoing assault on the environment and public health will put people at risk. With his proposed budget cuts of 31 percent and attempts to shrink the size of EPAs staff, the President is doing everything possible to ensure there will not enough personnel to make sure our water is safe to drink, our land is clean, our air is breathable, and New Jersey’s 118 Superfund Sites are cleaned-up.”
With New Jersey having the most Superfund sites in the nation, we need to fund the Superfund program to adequately clean-up toxic sites and make sure polluters pay their fair share. New Jersey has 118 Superfund sites and have over one thousand sites waiting to be listed. Polluters have used our state as a dumping ground for years and most people live 10 miles from a Superfund site. These sites contaminate our drinking water and release hazardous chemicals into the environment. Additionally, monitoring is not a cleanup and should not be used as an excuse to clean up the site. Without funding, there will be more pollution in the ground impacting communities around the sites.
“New Jersey is home to more Superfund sites than any other state, and recklessly slashing cleanup resources is simply a bad deal for our taxpayers. Putting the health of our children, our communities, and our economy at risk is a penny wise and pound foolish move that will ultimately cost New Jersey residents far more in taxes, stalled economic development, weak property values, and devastating health care costs,” said Rep. Gottheimer. “Studies show that property values increase by an average of 18% after a Superfund cleanup. With 39 Superfund sites in the Fifth District alone, I refuse to accept this attack on the health and safety of Northern New Jersey families.”
In 1984, Diamond Alkali plant site along the Passaic River was listed on the Superfund National Priorities List (NPL). The plant manufactured pesticides, weed killers, and Agent Orange, the defoliant used during the Vietnam War. The process of making Agent Orange required large quantities of dioxin. Dioxin is an extremely harmful substance not only to humans, but to the ecosystem as well. Dioxin from this site has been found in fish all the way down to Florida. This dangerous toxin needs to be fully removed from the River to protect not only our environment, but public health. The reason we need funding for the Superfund program is to ensure we get an adequate clean-up and toxic sites are monitored. However, currently, the plan to clean-up the Passaic River includes a cap on 8.3 miles from the Diamond Alkai Superfund site, but leaves out the 9 other miles that is contaminated. The plan in place will not work because it includes dredging and capping sediment contains dioxins, PCBs, mercury and other toxins without full removal and restoration.
“President Trump’s rollback on the Superfund site program is part of his war on the environment. By cutting funding for toxic cleanups and Superfund Sites, what he is doing is poisoning people with more toxins in our soil, water and homes. Thousands of people have been poisoned by the Superfund site in Garfield, and now they are getting poisoned by the Passaic River,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “Not funding the Superfund program will leads to clean up delays, more toxins going into ground water and neighborhoods threatening human health. Instead of making polluters pay and making them accountable, Trump is clearly taking the side of polluters over public health. The failure to have adequate funds means it takes longer to clean up sites leading to more toxics going into groundwater and neighborhoods. By not cleaning up toxic sites, it hurts our environment and puts people at risk.”
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency plan to address groundwater contaminated with hexavalent chromium at the Garfield Groundwater Contamination Superfund site may not go far enough to remedy all of the toxic contamination because it is an experimental way of monitoring and selective site remediation. Hexavalent chromium is a very dangerous chemical that has been linked to cancer and other serious health impacts. Flooding in this area makes the problem worse, spreading the contamination. Even if the proposed clean-up is a good plan, it may not happen because the EPA will not have the funding to implement it. From 1983 to 2009, the electroplating plant continued to operate as the chemical contaminated the factory building, soil, and groundwater in the area. The community deserves a real clean-up, but that may not happen because there is very little funding for Superfund sites, especially now with Trump’s budget cuts.