New Jersey on Friday took the first step to rid the lower Hackensack River of heavily contaminated sediment dating from the state's industrial past.
State Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Shawn LaTourette announced the commitment of Gov. Phil Murphy's administration to seek placement of the 23-mile stretch of river on the federal government's list of Superfund toxic sites. Approval would mean access to federal funding and would enable the Environmental Protection Agency to seek the parties responsible for polluting the waters to help fund the remediation, once identified.
“Designating the lower Hackensack River as a federal Superfund site will provide the tools we need to remove decades of contamination that have polluted river sediments and restore the natural resources that have been impaired for far too long,” LaTourette said.
A previous EPA study found elevated levels of cancer-causing dioxin, cadmium, lead, mercury and PCBs in sediment sampled from the river's mouth at Newark Bay to the Oradell Reservoir.
Achieving Superfund status could take years to complete.
“I realize that this is one step in the process and that cleanup will take time,” said Hackensack Riverkeeper Bill Sheehan. He said he has been working to get the designation since 2015.