On a Night Like This

[Apologies – This was published originally by the Star Ledger at my “NJ Voices” column. The SL took down all the photos, but I was able to recover the text.]
Dupont Logo from Deepwater facility –
Better living through chemistry?

On a night like this
So glad you came around,
Hold on to me so tight
And heat up some coffee grounds.
We got much to talk about
And much to reminisce,
It sure is right
On a night like this.

“`Bob Dylan
[With 6 Updates below ]
At the invitation of Councilman Ed Meakem, I trekked up to Pompton Lakes last night to talk about toxic pollution from the Dupont site and to explain why the NJ cleanup laws and lame DEP lame oversight justify a critical and skeptical stance. I’m certain that my night was not the kind of night Mr. Dylan had in mind, but it sure was interesting and well worth sharing what I found, saw, and heard – on a night like this!
Meakem called me after he read this post, where I praised his leadership: Hammer meet nail
I wrote that after learing about the most recent toxic pollution at the Dupont site Pompton Lakes council wants independent test for toxic vapors

I arrived early for the 6:30 public hearing to explore the Dupont site. The Dupont site manger, a Mr. Dave Epps, refused my request for a tour and even blocked me from taking any photo’s at the gate – I was so impressed by Dupont’s bold “safety” claim, I just had to snap off a photo though! (you see, Dupont has polluted virtually the entire town a with a toxic soup of lead, mercury and organics. As a result, Dupont already has paid more than $38 million to settle a lawsuit by 427 residents for damages caused by mercury and lead poisoning of children. See: http://www.wilentzpersonalinjurylawyers.com/press/articles/article_acid_brook.html

Dupont Pompton Lakes site.

I promptly left the site as ordered by Mr. Epps, but the Wakenhut rent a cops then followed me around the working class neighborhood that surrounds the plant – I managed to shake them and was able to bushwack onto the grounds, but got driven away by a torrential rainstorm:

homes surround Dupont toxic site

Soaked to the bone, after the deluge passed I explored the perimeter of the Dupont site and managed to come across a soccer field and the DEP “Cannonball Trail” trailhead. Since most folks prefer to live, work and have their kids play as far away from a toxic waste site as possible, lets just say I was surprised by what I found –
This soccer field is named Dupont Field. It is completely surrounded by groundwater monitoring wells and a “pump and treat” system. I was told that the highly polluted groundwater is pumped out of the ground, treated, and then recharged back into the ground ON the soccer field. So kids play on a hazardous wast treatment unit! Only in NJ!

Dupont Field

NJ has hundreds of miles of outstanding hiking trails – along with that toxic legacy. As the nation’s most densely populated state, why not co-locate? This is the trailhead for the DEP “Cannonball Trail” – yes, those are monitoring wells –

The “Cannonball Trail” trailhead.

Just 10 feet to the left of this point, is a real field of dreams – so many monitoring wells and what look like vapor ducts I couldn’t count them:

The Dupont site was fenced with the typical signs – which got me to thinking about law enforcement and property rights: First, the signs provide no warning that the land behind the fence is a toxic waste site or that wildlife, fish, soil, and water are contaminated;

Second, and more important, just who is trespassing here? Dupont dumped toxic chemicals on the land and in the water. Those chemicals have migrated off site and poison surrounding homes, residents, drinking water wells, Wanaque River, Acid Brook, wildlife, fish, and Pompton Lake. Those chemicals and Dupont have trespassed!


Blocked by fences and hounded by rent a cops, all I managed to see of the Dupont site was this out building (that could be another monitoring well in foreground and some kind of air emissions stack, but I have no info on what goes on in that building):

I finally ended up at the public hearing – I was the first invited guest asked to speak!
Here’s what I warned the Borough Council about: NEW JERSEY TO PRIVATIZE POLLUTION REGULATION TO SAVE MONEY — Outsourcing Clean-Ups Is Recipe for More Toxic Disasters, Legislature Told
I was not sure if this woman lives in the vapor intrusion zone, or whether her kids play on the soccer field. But it did seem like she was just a little concerned.

This is Steve Madonna (no relation to the more famous and attractive namesakes). Steve was the NJ Environmental Prosecutor in the Florio Administration – was that is, until his Office was abolished by another “Open for Business” Governor, Christine Todd Whitman. Steve does toxic torts and represents residents in Pompton Lakes – Dupont has already paid out millions for damages associated with lead and mercury poisoning of kids.

Homeward bound, I stopped at “The Office” in Morristown for dinner and a few pints – all on a night like this.

Update #6 – The Dupont Pompton Lakes toxic contamination story isn’t going away – check out the latest:
State will check rate of cancer in plume
Thursday, March 12, 2009
POMPTON LAKES — Mayor Katie Cole has requested the results of a state health study to see if cancer clusters exist among residents living above a plume of contamination in the borough’s northeastern section.
The state Department of Health and Senior Services says it will respond to her by early April with the results.
Cole said she asked for the study of the entire plume — some 437 homes — but especially for Barbara Drive and Orchard Street, because residents “kept coming up at meetings to say there were numerous cases of cancer at those locations.”

“I needed the experts to investigate to see if those statements were true,” she said. “And if they are, we would have to move to the next step, to follow up with whatever is needed — perhaps surveys or health screenings for people.”
Testing last May by DuPont, whose former explosives factory is responsible for the contamination, revealed elevated levels of chemicals or “intrusive vapors” in the groundwater under as many as 400 buildings in the plume. The pollution is from the degreasers tetrachloroethylene (PCE) and trichloroethylene (TCE), which were used as cleaners by the factory. It operated in town between 1902 and 1994.
DuPont has offered to pay to install mitigation systems — basement venting — and to be involved in the design of filtering systems to be put in the affected homes. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the state Department of Environmental Protection are monitoring the testing and installation of the systems. And recently, the borough hired an environmental firm to watch DuPont’s cleanup and remediation efforts.
The EPA, DEP and the borough all have advised residents to install the systems in their homes. Some residents have refused, saying they fear depreciation of their homes and have health concerns for their families.
Cole hopes the study will calm those fears.
But Marilyn Riley, spokeswoman for the state Department of Health and Senior Services, said the study’s goal is to “see if there are any unusual trends, any larger number of cancers.”
“Basically, we are looking at data in the state’s Cancer Registry,” she said. The registry gets its information from doctors, hospitals, clinics, radiologists, laboratories and dentists, all of whom are required to report cancer diagnoses treated in the state since 1978.
“We would have to study the location of the cancer, the type of cancer,” Riley said. “You verify what cases are, where they are.”
The process to identify clusters is indeed complicated, said Michael Greenberg, associate dean of the faculty of the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University. Greenberg has worked on many studies throughout the state looking for cancer clusters.
“It’s like detective work,” he said. “What you are looking for is an excess of that particular disease of a particular area at that particular time.”

Copyright © North Jersey Media Group
[Update #5 – 3/11/09 – Holy cow! Where has DEP been all these years? Looks like my original July 10, 2008 post was right all along – Over 90% of homes tested were poisoned by toxic vapors from Dupont. Read this:
Act against vapors, residents told
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
POMPTON LAKES — The most recent tests of toxic vapors seeping through soil under basements in the town’s northeastern section confirm that homeowners there should take advantage of technology being offered free to remove those vapors, state and federal environmental officials said Monday.
Those tests, of soil under 37 homes and apartment buildings scattered above the plume of contamination in the groundwater, found vapors above acceptable levels in more than nine of 10 cases, indicating that vapors were likely seeping into basements.

Link to Full story:
[Update #1: Boro to hire DuPont watchdog http://www.suburbantrends.com/NC/0/870.html
[Update #2: read Dupont’s proposed vapor intrusion cleanup plan:
[Update #3 Chemical fears bring community to prominent law firm http://www.northjersey.com/environment/environmentnews/Chemical_fears_bring_community_to_prominent_law_firm_.html
[Update #4: Citizens unite over DuPont

  1. unprovincial
    July 10th, 2008 at 19:54 | #1

    Bill: you should be able to out-run those Wackenhut guards.

  2. nohesitation
    July 10th, 2008 at 21:59 | #2

    I just got an anonymous question and suggestion from a DEP staffer:
    Has this site been assessed Natural Resource Damages by DEP?
    Local officials and residents need to ask DEP that question.
    Have nearby NJDWSC drinking water supplies been impacted?
    Why are the wells so closed together?
    Is there an air stripper in that building?
    Can Wakenhut guards run a 1/4 mile in less than 5 minutes? (after the drop the donut)
    Inquiring minds want to know

  3. plfencer
    March 10th, 2009 at 17:50 | #3

    You are a terrible “journalist” if thats what you call yourself. Ed Meakem is a fool, and most of the townspeople know he’s a fool. You report falsely and don’t pay attention to facts. You also have terrible grammar and syntax. You are a joke.

  4. dionc9
    March 11th, 2009 at 11:08 | #4
  5. dionc9
  6. nohesitation
    March 11th, 2009 at 12:47 | #6

    hey dionc9 – great video parable.
    Guess I too am doing what I can.
    But is the hummingbird powerful?
    I’m reading a book on american transcendentalists – and that is a timely question!
    Emerson argued that – in a spiritual sense – individual change is a precondition for social change. While I understand that perspective and consider myself a radical individualist, I’m more in the collective action camp for social change, in light of the limits on individual solutions.

  7. dionc9
    March 11th, 2009 at 15:06 | #7

    Hey Bill, I believe the hummingbird is powerful. The hummingbird is the catalyst for change because in due time others will join with the hummingbird to extinguish the fire. It always starts with one. It finishes with as many as it takes.

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