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For Immediate Release:  
For Further Information Contact:
December 14, 2005

Office of The Attorney General
- Peter C. Harvey, Attorney General
NJ Department of Environmental Protection
Bradley M. Campbell, Commissioner

 

Paul Loriquet
609-292-4791
Fred Mumford
609-984-1795

 

New Jersey Sues Three Companies for Discharging and Delaying Cleanup of Highly Toxic Dioxin in the Lower Passaic River
Directs Companies to Fund Cleanup Plan for Most Concentrated Areas of Dioxin Contamination in the River

(05/134) TRENTON – Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Bradley M. Campbell and Attorney General Peter C. Harvey today announced that New Jersey filed suit against Occidental Chemical Corporation, Maxus Energy Corporation and Tierra Solutions, Inc. for the intentional discharge of dioxin - an extremely dangerous, cancer-causing chemical – and other contaminants into the Passaic River.

New Jersey also directed the three companies to pay the state $2.3 million to develop a plan to dredge contaminated sediments in a six-mile stretch of the Lower Passaic River, the first step in reducing dioxin contamination levels. The six-mile stretch is located in Essex County in the municipality of Newark, and in Hudson County in the municipalities of Harrison, East Newark, and Kearny.

“Lower Passaic River communities already have waited too long for a cleanup of dioxin that is an immediate threat to public health,” said Commissioner Campbell. “We have gathered enough data and completed enough studies to know where the most significant source of dioxin is in the river. The time for New Jersey to act is now, and our actions will complement those of the federal-state partnership addressing long-term restoration of the river. ”

“The owners of this chemical plant poisoned the Passaic River and Newark Bay with dioxin that put the health of the public at serious risk,” said Attorney General Harvey. “Our suit and directive demand payment for the cleanup of this dangerous contamination and compensation for the severe damage done to these major waterways.”

Occidental Chemical Corporation discharged a particular form of dioxin known as 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD) and other contaminants from a Newark plant within this six-mile area. Because of tidal movement, the high concentrations of dioxin in sediment within the six-mile area is an ongoing source of contamination to other areas of the river and the NJ/NY harbor estuary.

EPA and other agencies have determined that dioxin, TCDD in particular, is one of the most toxic chemicals ever developed by man. Human exposure to dioxin at extremely low concentrations can cause severe health effects, including cancer and reproductive damage. Dioxin (TCDD) contamination associated with Occidental Chemical Corporation’s operations has been found in the sediment of the six-mile stretch of the Lower Passaic River at concentrations of up to 5,300,000 parts per trillion (ppt) and its continued migration has created one of the largest and most toxic contaminant discharges in the world.

Dioxin concentrations in Passaic River fish and crabs are among the highest reported in the world and present an imminent and substantial danger to the public and wildlife. As a result of the dioxin released by Occidental Chemical Corporation, the state has been forced to impose fishing and crabbing bans in the Passaic River for more than 20 years. Despite the state’s ongoing efforts to alert the public of the dangers of eating these fish and crab, New Jersey residents are still catching and consuming them.

DEP will develop a source control dredge plan to prevent the ongoing spread of dioxin contamination coming from sediments in the six-mile stretch. By removing and/or controlling the spread of dioxin concentrations in sediment above 17 parts per trillion, the source control dredge plan will begin and accelerate the reduction of dioxin (TCDD) concentrations in fish and shellfish tissue to levels considered safe for both human consumption and a healthy ecosystem.

Under the directive, Occidental Chemical Corporation, Maxus Energy Corporation and Tierra Solutions, Inc. must pay the state $2,298,106 within 30 calendar days. If Occidental Chemical Corporation, Maxus Energy Corporation and Tierra Solutions, Inc. fail to pay DEP for the source control dredge plan, the state has the authority to sue the companies for reimbursement of all costs incurred, including an amount equal to three times the cleanup and removal cost.

In addition to the imminent and substantial danger that dioxin poses to human and animal populations, the presence of dioxin in the sediment has an ongoing adverse economic impact on New Jersey’s commerce and port industry. The high levels of dioxin in sediment significantly increase the dredge disposal costs in Newark Bay and surrounding areas.

Site Background

For more than two decades, Occidental Chemical Corporation and its predecessors (Diamond Shamrock Chemical Company) and others intentionally discharged TCDD, DDT and various other pesticides and chemicals from their manufacturing plant at the Diamond Alkali site at 80 Lister Avenue and the adjacent property at 120 Lister Avenue on the banks of the Passaic River in Newark, New Jersey.

While no cleanup work has been done to address the TCDD contamination in the river, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency—under its Superfund program—has completed interim work on land at the Diamond Alkali site to address ongoing discharges of contamination to the Passaic River.

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