Located in northern New Jersey and in New York’s Rockland and Orange Counties, the waterways of the Passaic River have been marred as an industrial pollutant dumping ground for decades. Once situated in a thriving industrial area, many of the manufacturing sites are now deserted and residents are forced to avoid the water at all costs.

Characterized by pungent odors and murky waters, the riverbanks are filled with warning signs not to eat the fish or blue claw crabs found in the river. However, the sad state of the Passaic River may soon change. In March, environmental officials announced plans to remove more than 100 years of toxins from the waterway’s lower eight miles — widely known as its most contaminated portion.

Volume of Contaminants Largest in Superfund History

The cleanup is slated to be one of the most ambitious and costly initiatives in the 35-year history of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Superfund program. In total, efforts to remove sediments laced with a host of contaminants — including pesticides, chemicals, and heavy metals — are expected to cost $1.38 billion. The volume of extracted pollutants will be largest in Superfund history, including enough to fill Red Bull Arena — a neighboring soccer stadium — three times over.

Included in the cleanup plan is the area of Newark Bay to the Belleville-Newark border, which will have a protective cap mounted from one side of the bank to the other, to keep remaining contaminants out. All toxic residue will be transported to a licensed waste disposal location.

Under the terms of the Superfund program, polluters are expected to handle the work or foot the bill, so the Passaic River cleanup won’t start until officials have negotiated with the approximately 100 companies suspected of contributing to the waterway’s current state.

Once designated the second most-polluted river in the country, the Passaic cleanup will take more than 10 years to complete. This includes four years scheduled to complete its design, with an added six years to remove the pollutants and finish associated construction projects.

Officials and residents are hoping the cleanup initiative will have a positive impact on the community and the health of residents.
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