TOMS RIVER — One of New Jersey’s most infamous pollution sites, linked to a cluster of childhood cancers in the 1990s, will be protected and turned into a 1,000-acre park, according to a draft agreement announced Monday by the State Department of Environmental Protection. .
BASF Corporation, owner of the site formerly owned by Ciba-Geigy Corp., has agreed to restore most of the property to natural condition and open the future 1,000-acre park in 2023, according to the DEP.
The proposed park would have restored freshwater wetlands, created upland grasslands, pollinator habitats, public access trails, wildlife viewing boardwalks and an environmental center, according to the agency. of state.
“This is a step in the right direction for people who have suffered from contamination at the Ciba-Geigy Superfund site for decades,” said Taylor McFarland, conservation manager for the New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club, an organization environmental.
The 1,350-acre site housed the Toms River Chemical Co. plant which manufactured dyes and resins beginning in the early 1950s. Under later Ciba-Geigy ownership, employees illegally dumped chemicals throughout the property. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, the toxins seeped into groundwater from various plant locations, including a storage area containing 35,000 chemical drums and a 12-acre area containing waste water and plant sludge.
In 1982, the property was added to the federal Superfund registry and supported the cleanup effort, according to the EPA.
In 1995, the New Jersey Department of Health and the Federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry began examining the rate of childhood cancers in Toms River and the potential relationship to drinking water contamination. The state health department determined that there was, in fact, a statistically significant increase in childhood cancers in the township.
Since acquiring the site, BASF has continued groundwater treatment operations to remove pollution, which began in 1992. Disposal of chemical drums and toxic soils was completed in 2010.
DEP officials will be accepting public comments on the proposed park agreement with BASF over the next 30 days.
After:Toms River Ciba-Geigy Superfund site will take decades to clean up
“Having spent my childhood on the other side of the fence at this polluted site, I know what this settlement will mean for families and children in these neighborhoods,” said DEP Assistant Commissioner Sean D. Moriarty, who oversees the DEP team that developed the regulations, said in a press release. “I am proud to have played a small part in transforming a previously forbidden place into a place where the community can truly connect with nature and appreciate its immense value for health and well-being.”
But some environmentalists have expressed dissatisfaction with the proposed deal.
Janet Tauro, New Jersey president of the environmental advocacy group Clean Water Action, said the public should be entitled to a public hearing on the deal because the pollution remains at the site. She called the previous actions of Ciba-Geigy Corp. of “abomination”.
BASF will continue site remediation, which includes excavating and capping contaminated areas and pumping and treating groundwater, despite the agreement, according to the DEP.
Jeff Tittel, an environmental activist and former manager of the New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club, said the settlement should include compensation for damages and injuries caused by chemical contamination.
“It’s a sale,” he said. “The state should not control a contaminated site.”
Details of the settlement are online at DEP’s Office of Natural Resource Restoration.
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Amanda Oglesby is from Ocean County and covers the townships of Brick, Barnegat and Lacey as well as the environment. She has worked for the press for more than a decade. Reach her at @OglesbyAPP, email@example.com or 732-557-5701.
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