Contaminated Sites History
Love Canal in Western NY is memorialized in environmental history as the seminal example of what happens when there is no or limited regulation governing the disposal of toxic wastes on property or the subsequent reuse of property where such wastes were dumped. In the late 1800’s, Mr. William Love envisioned a canal connecting the upper section of the Niagara River to the lower section of the Niagara River. Early on, Mr. Love ran out of money and abandoned the project leaving behind a canal that was 1 mile long, 15 feet wide, and up to 69 feet deep. In the 1920’s, the City of Niagara Falls began disposing waste in the canal. In the 1940’s, Hooker Chemical bought the property and began to dump chemical wastes into the canal. In the early 1950’s, and in response to post-war suburban expansion, Hooker Chemical sold the property to the City of Niagara Falls, which developed the property with a school and neighborhoods. In the 1970’s, a health emergency was declared due to the apparent health effects being experienced by the residents. Notably, a survey conducted by the Love Canal Homeowners Association found that 56 percent of the children born from 1974 to 1978 experienced a birth defect.
In response to this environmental disaster, the Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act, 42 USC 9601 et seq. (“CERCLA” or “Superfund”) was enacted by Congress in 1980. A function of CERCLA is to create a super fund by charging the polluting companies to fund the investigation and clean-up of the most contaminated sites.
Contaminated Sites State History
The Industrial Revolution brought major changes to Europe and North America during the 18th to the 19th centuries and New Jersey was not immune. In 1791 Alexander Hamilton proposed the development of a planned industrial town at the Passaic Falls, which eventually would become Paterson, New Jersey. By the early 1800s, Paterson was the cradle of the Industrial Revolution in New Jersey and had become the country’s largest silk manufacturing center. In 1835 Samuel Colt began manufacturing firearms in Paterson, and by 1850, Paterson was producing locomotives. Elsewhere in New Jersey, industry was establishing a firm foothold — Newark had breweries, hat factories, and paper plants; Trenton, iron and paper; Jersey City, steel and soap; and Middlesex, clays and ceramics. The late 1800s saw the birth of the electrical industry, the growth of oil refineries on Bayonne’s shores, and emerging chemical, drug, paint, and telephone manufacturing centers. As a result of these industrial activities, it was common for chemical wastes to be routinely dumped or landfilled on the property without regard to the environmental consequences.
New Jersey’s industrial legacy has resulted in more than 20,000 contaminated sites (NJDEP). New Jersey also has the unenviable distinction of being home to more Superfund sites than any other state. Superfund sites are generally high priority contaminated properties that the federal government is investigating and remediating through the USEPA. Less contaminated sites, called brownfields, do not involve the Federal Government.
NJ Regulatory Response
New Jersey has been at the forefront of environmental law and enacted water pollution control laws as early as the late 1700’s. Through several legislative iterations, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (“NJDEP”) as it exists today was created in 1970 to protect the air, water, land, and natural and historic resources of the State. The NJDEP’s mission is advanced through an effective and balanced implementation and enforcement of environmental laws to protect these resources and the health and safety of New Jersey’s residents. The regulatory framework to address contaminated sites in New Jersey stems from the following notable statutes:
Spill Act — New Jersey enacted the Spill Compensation and Control Act, NJSA 58:10-23.11 et seq. (“Spill Act”) 4 years prior to CERCLA and establishes a comprehensive framework for the prevention and remediation of hazardous substance contamination. A key tenet of the Spill Act is the liability provision which imposes joint and several liability for the clean- up costs regardless of fault and with limited defenses.
ISRA – On January 1, 1984, the Environmental Cleanup Responsibility Act, NJSA 13:1K-6 et seq. (subsequently renamed the Industrial Site Recovery Act (“ISRA”)) became effective. ISRA imposes a statutory obligation to investigate and remediate property prior to transferring property in certain real estate and business transactions.
SRRA — On May 7, 2009, Governor Corzine signed into law the Site Remediation Reform Act, NJSA 58:10C-1 et seq. which introduced sweeping changes to the administration of site cleanups in New Jersey. Among other important changes to existing environmental laws, the Act introduced a licensed site remediation professional (“LSRP”) program modeled under a program that has been operating in Massachusetts for a number of years. One of the key objectives of SRRA is to streamline the regulatory closure process for the more than 20,000 known contaminated sites across New Jersey by allowing LSRPs, instead of the NJDEP, to oversee site cleanups.
Contaminated Sites in Mountain Lakes
Mountain Lakes, for all its bucolic splendor, is home to approximately 187 contaminated sites (based on NJDEP’s Dataminer database — http://www.nj.gov/dep/opra/online.html). While a majority of these contaminated sites are the result of leaks and spills from residential heating oil tanks, a number of contaminated sites are the result of commercial or industrial activities, notably:
Petroleum and Gasoline Station Facilities. The activities at the following properties have resulted in contamination primarily from leaking fuel storage tanks which has caused petroleum constituents above regulatory standards in soil and groundwater. These properties continue to exhibit detectable levels of contamination and require additional investigation and/or remediation:
- Amerada Hess Service Station, 62 Route 46 (NJDEP PI ID 8796)
- Citgo / Gulf Service Station, 326 Route 46 (NJDEP PI ID 26487)
- Dixon Brothers Oil, 100 Pocono Road (NJDEP PI ID 8821)
B & V Cleaners (Dry Cleaning Facility), 82 Route 46 (NJDEP PI ID 127072) – the activities at this property have resulted in contamination from dry cleaning activities resulting in chlorinated solvent constituents above regulatory standards in soil and groundwater. Notably, in 1991, tetrachloroethylene (PCE), a chemical used in dry cleaning facilities, was detected at a concentration above the drinking water standard in Mountain Lake’s Well #5 located adjacent to B & V Cleaners. In recognition of the need to maintain water quality and deliver safe water to its residents, Mountain Lakes undertook the planning, funding and design of an air stripping facility at the contaminated well to eliminate the PCE contaminant from the water supply. This air stripper has been in operation since 2000 and has a capacity to treat approximately 1,000,000 gallons of water per day.
Contaminated Site Cleanup Success Story
The former Standard Railway Fusee Corp. facility, located at the corner of Morris Avenue and Fanny Road (NJDEP PI ID 31817), represents a success story in local remediation and redevelopment. Formerly designated as a contaminated “brownfield” site, remediation efforts were completed in 2006 and this property is now a luxury condominium/townhome development known as Park Place at Mountain Lakes.
How do I learn more?
Additional information about contaminated sites in Mountain Lakes and throughout New Jersey can be obtained by calling NJDEP at 1-866-DEP-KNOW or by filing an Open Public Records Act (“OPRA”) request for information. Additional information also may be available at http://www.epa.gov/epahome/commsearch.htm.
Please proceed to the MCPRIMA to map NJDEP known contaminated sites (KCSL) within the Borough.