At a meeting with EPA officials just yards from the town's most popular beach -- shut down last year after toxic lead slag was discovered -- one Old Bridge resident had a message for the agency:
"Get off your ass and get it done tomorrow."
But EPA officials explained to residents that the cleanup will take years, and easily cost $100 million or more.
"The worst thing we can do is rush this, do an inadequate job," said EPA's Region 2 Administrator Judith Enck, who said officials cannot take the risk that children playing on the beach or in the water might ingest even a small amount of lead.
Nonetheless, it was disturbing news to residents who have come to count on this beach in the Laurence Harbor section of Old Bridge.
"I brought a beach chair, not a jetty chair," complained Georgina Gilmartin, who had to take her beach, er, 'jetty' chair out to the end of the jetty that flanks the beach in order to get her sunbathing in.
But the study to determine how extensive the pollution is, and then to design a solution, will take until the end of 2011, according to EPA official Walter Mugdan.
"The law is very explicit about how we go forward," Mugdan said.
But he also told residents that the solution will likely be "a combination of removal and capping" though he quickly added he was just guessing.
If so, it will be a lot of removal and/or capping. An estimated 2,400 feet of seawall was built with the lead slag, as was a several hundred-foot-long jetty about a mile away.
Congressman Frank Pallone said the evidence so far points to a long-closed smelter operated by National Lead.
Locals claim a developer took the slag and dumped it some 40 years or so ago in what turned out to be an aborted effort to build condominiums on the edge of Raritan Bay, facing the south shore of Staten Island.