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Dupont Pompton Lakes – Still Dirty After All These Years

Dupont Field, Pompton Lakes, NJ (July 9, 2008)

[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!)

Dupont rep (fat, left) talks to Fox reporter (R)

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:

Dupont Filed (May 11, 2012) - the only grass mowed was a narrow path to the groundwater monitoring wells.

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:

Home on Barbara Drive, has vapor intrusion. See blue groundwater monitoring well in foreground.

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”.

home on Barbara Drive with 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.

EPA also issued false certifications to Congress that groundwater and human health exposure at the site were “under control”.

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).

"shooting pond" Dupont site.

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 Pond
If 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:

stream flows from Shooting Pond

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?

hazardous warnings on site, but not off site

Turn this valve to blow up the place!

A rusty old pipe discharged to this little pond, which drained to a stream. Wonder what was discharged there?

And what the heck are these? Readers who know, please tell us! 

infrastructure near North plant - what is it?

“Dupont Field of Schemes” – Multi- Billion Dollar Corporation Can’t Cut the Grass


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  1. May 12th, 2012 at 10:10 | #1

    Great Work Bill they lie until we Die!

  2. May 12th, 2012 at 11:29 | #2

    Bill – I cannot thank you enough for your bravery, knowledge and your friendship. Great work as always. All the best from the plume in Pompton Lakes :).

  3. Patrick Giles
    May 12th, 2012 at 12:58 | #3

    It was a pleasure & an honor to meet You , your hard work & never back down attitude is more of an inspiration than I can even put into words. There is allot of hard work ahead of us but having You on board gives me the confidence that we will prevail. Thank You Mr. Wolfe your efforts will never be forgotten & I will forever be grateful. I Love the Dupont response “We didn’t know You brought the Wolfe” so Pulp fiction Harvey Keitel lol Take care & be well.

  4. May 12th, 2012 at 13:05 | #4

    fantastic article, thank you for showing the public the poisonous stuff the people and the town has been exposed to, with no remedy in sight but blind eyes, deaf ears on the politicians, epa, dep, perhaps their own agenda is for more important than the health of the residents who have to live here. thank you for your un-bias report, this needs attention, and dealt with by the federal goverment, lack of co-operation from the town level and state level has been ignored too long.

  5. May 12th, 2012 at 22:44 | #5

    Kerry Smith – thank you for caring and understanding how horrible this has been for for our community. Decades of neglect – it has to end, it is just not right!

  6. Karen Dean
    May 13th, 2012 at 08:02 | #6

    Bill – thank you so much for everything you are doing for us. Words can’t express how greatful we all are. just having you at the press conference with your knowledge was amazing. I just wish the community would show more support this effects everyone. this has to stop that meaning Du Pont must show a different side a side of campassion for once. Pompton Lakes does not derseve what we were dealt by this company.

  7. Mr & Mrs Lombardo
    May 13th, 2012 at 21:13 | #7

    After 25 years since this uncovered we still do not have a comprehensive containment and cleanup plan, nor, have we been given COMPLETE list of toxins dumped on site (including the use of and disposal of depleted uranium and other radioactive waste).
    The EPA keeps saying DuPont is a responsible party but that is only legally and fiscally…..they have NOT ever been responsible to the people of Pompton Lakes period!
    We pay the highest taxes for the highest cancer rates in the country while the EPA fails to take charge to date and enforce significant cleanup progress.
    Please note that the exhaust end of the Vapor Mitigation System installed by DuPont’s contractor is right near an attic vent and window on the Barbara Drive house pictured above! Where is the EPA corrective action?
    To date, this community has bent over backwards to point out problems to the EPA and all we get is a blind eye and a deaf ear in return.
    We urge President Obama to meet with the DOD and DuPont immediately and deliver help to Pompton Lakes before we are all dead!
    May God bless you Bill in all your endeavors and may the wind always be at your back in the search of truth and justice.

  8. May 17th, 2012 at 15:51 | #8

    great work bill. thank you for all you are doing on behalf of the residents of pompton lakes. regarding the photo of the blue house on barbara drive, with the vms, isn’t that stack a little too close to the vent at the peak of the house? the fox news piece was really good. thank you to all who made that possible.

  9. May 21st, 2012 at 09:45 | #9

    The OPEN PUBLIC MEETING of the Pompton Lakes Community Advisory Group (CAG) is set for Tuesday June 19, 2012, 7 pm at Pompton Lakes Elks Lodge No. 1895, 15 Perrin Avenue, Pompton Lakes, NJ. http://www.pomptnlakescag.org. The attendance is ten times greater for THIS Community Advisory Group (CAG). Attendance track record has clearly shown that the residents believe in this group and for over a year now continue to attend their meetings. I believe the other group is lucky if they have a handful of people show up.

  10. Nancy Brennan
    January 30th, 2013 at 09:36 | #10

    @Mr & Mrs Lombardo
    I grew up in Pompton and moved back there in 1988 with my husband and children on Colfax Ave. I was diagnosed in 2011 with a rare form of cancer, we were not that far away from Dupont. My daughter also had a bone tumor when she was 5 years old, that whole area is full of chemicals and contamination. I can’t believe the lack of action for poor unsuspecting people who live there and have lived there who end up sick, like us.

  1. August 2nd, 2012 at 11:23 | #1
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