Dupont Pompton Lakes – Still Dirty After All These Years
[Update 5/14/12: Watch Fox News coverage: “NJ community devastated by contaminated water”.
It is shocking that the spokesman for Dupont, one of the largest chemical companies in the world, can’t get his chemical names right “PEC and TEC” and can’t seem to speak for a State Department of Health study that found elevated rates of certain cancers that are associated with the specific chemicals in the groundwater that Dupont put there! And it is not surprising that Dupont can’t commit to a date for cleanup of the Lake because the US Fish and Wildlife Service found serious flaws in Dupont’s ecological assessment of bio-accumulative mercury in sediments and EPA is unable to approve the Dupont cleanup plan (and that photo at time 4:10-4:12 came from this December 2011 Wolfenotes post! - end update.]
I got a call from my friends Lisa Riggiola and Ed Meakem asking to come up to Pompton Lakes to join residents doing interviews with Fox news. No fan of Fox news and highly skeptical of their angle, still, I wandered back to the scene of the crime yesterday (I’m told Fox will broadcast the story Sunday night at 10 pm on the Geraldo Rivera show. Something tells me that they will give me the “government lied” soundbite). The whole thing brought a song to mind – Paul Simon “Still Crazy after all these years” (I like the Willie Nelson version – so listen and then read on!)
The Fox crew seemed legitimately concerned and interested in the story. Their reporter interviewed several residents at the Lake, in homes in the vapor plume, and at the Dupont facility. He seemed over-whelmed by the outpouring of numerous disasters and human tragedies that resulted from Dupont corporate greed and abuse and government indifference, incompetence, and timidity.
The Fox reporter asked that I go with him on the Dupont site tour, to help him with questions of the Dupont spokesman. I agreed to do that, but, repeating a pattern, when we arrived for the tour/interview, the Dupont rep. would not let me on the site! When Fox reporter asked why, the Dupont guy said ”we didn’t know Wolfe was coming”.
The Fox crew filmed along Barbara Drive and the (former) soccer field.
This brought back memories – The photo above is what “Dupont Field” looked like on July 9, 2008, when I wrote this in my Star Ledger NJ Voices column:
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!
Kids unknowingly played on that “field” for years while Dupont, DEP and EPA looked the other way. But my criticism and disclosure forced Dupont to close the field, which now shamefully looks like this (below). The only grass that was mowed was the narrow path to the groundwater monitoring wells – another insult to the residents of Pompton Lakes:
But an abandoned soccer field is the least of the problems Dupont created at Pompton Lakes. How would you like this view from the front porch of your home:
But while the view is bad, the toxic gases seeping into the homes is far worse for people who live in the 450 homes above “the plume”. Take a look at the stack running up the side of the building. That’s a “vapor mitigation system”.
Residents were poisoned in their homes by Dupont pollution – something known as “vapor intrusion”. Dupont, DEP, and EPA knew about the vapor problem for over a decade but didn’t inform homeowners, who unknowingly were needlessly exposed to cancer causing chemical gases (hit this link for a chronology of who knew what when).
Outrageously, the residents were not told about the vapor intrusion problem until after residents executed a legal settlement with Dupont that waived their ability to sue Dupont [read US District Court decision]. In the summer of 2008, just after the ink was dry on that litigation settlement agreement , DEP and EPA suddenly claimed to have discovered the vapor problem.
But, this is not the first time that DEP withheld scientific information from the public to shield Dupont – the same thing happened during litigation on PFOA contamination of groundwater from Dupont’s Chambersworks facility in South Jersey. DEP did not release site remediation information until a lawsuit there was settled.
These kinds of potential frauds and conspiracies warrant investigation.
After the Fox interview (and lunch with Lisa and Helen), I took a hike on the historic Cannonball Trail, which runs along the edge of the Dupont property. I couldn’t resist taking advantage of an opening in the fence to ramble the Dupont site.
I could not find the two “open burning areas”, where as late as the 1990′s, a DEP issued and EPA rubber stamped RCRA permit allowed Dupont to openly burn huge amounts of hazardous waste, with no air emission controls. This hazardous waste contained high concentrations of mercury, which volatilized when the waste was combusted. The resulting air emissions deposited locally, and poisoned soil, water, and fish and wildlife of the entire region with bio-accumulative mercury. I could find no estimates of the total waste or mercury loading from these outrageous DEP approved “open burning” practices.
But I did manage to find the infamous “shooting pond”, technically known as a RCRA regulated hazardous waste surface impoundment.
For decades, Dupont detonated countless explosives in the pond, according to Dupont, more than 2.5 million per year. This contributed to severe toxic contamination with high levels of lead, mercury, selenium and a host of organic chemicals in surrounding impacted groundwater, soils, and surface water (the pond drains to a stream).
While this is ancient history, the tiny toxic shooting pond is actually a perfect microcosm of the Dupont disaster.
So let me give you just two examples of egregious falsehoods represented by Dupont – and regulatory failures by DEP and EPA.
Way back in 1987, DEP proposed to terminate a NJPDES groundwater pollution permit for the shooting pond. This finally would have stopped this outrageously polluting practice. But Dupont strenuously opposed that DEP action. Of course, they invoked the Big Lie about killing Jobs.
According to a July 17, 1987 letter from Mr. Bernard J. Reilly, Dupont’s “Senior Counsel” opposing DEP’s draft permit termination:
Impact on Employment of a Shutdown of the Shooting PondIf the DEP does not stay the final denial… the remaining permitted storage space will be consumed by approximately the end of November 1987. With no storage capacity and no alternative for destruction, the plant would be required to stop production and layoff in excess of 250 employees (emphasis mine).
Dupont did not just threaten plant closure. The also lied about the environmental conditions at the shooting pond:
“As NJDEP is aware, the stream flowing through the Shooting Pond area is intermittent. Despite the fact that the stream flow stops during dry weather, we have never observed evidence of migration of water from the pond to the stream” (emphasis mine)
I was there today, and I observed and photographed “evidence of migration of water from the pond to the stream“. The shooting pond was discharging a significant water flow to the stream. The stream did not appear to be intermittent. I understand that we are more than 4 inches below average rainfall for this time of year. Take a look:
Amazingly, DEP caved in to this blackmail and lying and agreed to Dupont’s request to stay the permit denial. The shooting pond continued to operate and pollute for over 2 more years, a deadline imposed by Congress in 1984 legislation known as HSWA.
How many more Dupont lies and threats – and DEP and EPA regulatory collapses – were there over the last 25 years?
Below are some additional photos of interesting stuff at the site. I was particularly bothered by the “hazardous road warning” - a warning Dupont provided to their employees but that residents never got.
The signs instructing employees on what valves to turn also do not inspire confidence – this is how an EXPLOSIVES PLANT was run?
And what the heck are these? Readers who know, please tell us!
“Dupont Field of Schemes” – Multi- Billion Dollar Corporation Can’t Cut the Grass