Dioxin: Legislative Developments

March 27, 2017 | Complex Torts & Product Liability | General Liability

Congressmen Ask Federal EPA to Determine if Hackensack River Should Be Added to Superfund List

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 it to finalize its review of the site and determine if it should be added to the Superfund National Priorities List.


A recent report in the New Jersey newspaper The Record indicated that the EPA had determined there were elevated levels of toxic and hazardous compounds in the Hackensack River, from its mouth in Newark Bay up to the Oradell Reservoir. According to the report, sediment samples collected by the EPA and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (“NJDEP”) contained as many as 20 or more contaminants affecting 22 miles of the Hackensack River.

The EPA previously had determined that there was dioxin, cadmium, lead, mercury, and PCBs in the river.

The Congressmen’s Request

In their letter to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, the congressmen said that the new report “underscore[d] the need for immediate action to protect the health of our waterway and the safety of our constituents.” The congressmen expressed “concern” about the “high levels of contaminants that have been detected throughout the riverbed because they have been found in recreational areas.”

They added:

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. 

The EPA’s Response

The Record reported that an EPA spokeswoman, Mary Mears, said that the EPA still was “considering the river for inclusion” as a Superfund site, and that the EPA “will review the letter and will respond directly to the congressmen.”

For further information, please contact James V. Aiosa, Paul V. Majkowski, Lawrence S. Han, or your regular Rivkin Radler attorney.

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