After fighting for a year and a half, residents of a Pompton Lakes, New Jersey neighborhood who believe they live in a cancer cluster, have new hope that they might be able to better protect their families and prevent future illnesses.
The state Department of Environmental Protection and federal Environmental Protection Agency have worked out an agreement with DuPont that allows residents to choose contractors to design and install systems to prevent chemical vapors from entering their homes.
"If you're home is directly above a contaminated area," said David Kluesner, a spokesman for the EPA. "This vapor mitigation system will prevent those vapors from entering your home."
In June 2008, DuPont and the DEP reported that chemicals had migrated from the closed, company-owned munitions factory in Pompton Lakes. And that a plume was sending toxic vapors from the soil beneath some 430 homes. DuPont offered to install vapor mitigation systems in all the homes, but because of allegations of shoddy work, many residents opted to not have the systems installed.
"If properly installed, it's supposed to do the job," said resident and contractor Joe Intintola, Jr. "But the company that DuPont hired, was not installing it correctly."
But after environmental agencies intervened, DuPont has agreed to pay for systems installations even if residents choose their own contractors. The installers must be selected from a list of DEP-approved contractors.
Richard and Ellie Lombardo say they have both been recently diagnosed with cancer and know several neighbors who have died from the debilitating disease. Richard says he's willing to give the venting system a try, now that he knows DuPont will not be installing it.
"This is a case where the federal government has come to our aid finally. I know this is a first step and we still have to see how it plays out, but it's a good first step." But his wife is not certain the venting system will help that much. "I would actually like DuPont to buy my home," said Ellie Lombardo. "And you can't sell it? No, would you want to buy it?"