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Sandy Creates Witches Brew of Chemicals

Date : Wed, 31 Oct 2012 13:48:55 -0400

For Immediate Release
October 31, 2012 Contact Jeff Tittel, 609-558-9100

Sandy Creates Witches Brew of Chemicals

Toxic Sites and Water Quality Impacted by the Hurricane

Every time we have a large storm event we start seeing the impacts of flooding on our environment. Reports are coming in from around the state of pollution entering our waterways as a result of flooding from Hurricane Sandy.

"As people are trying to recover from the aftermath of this terrible storm they need to be careful because of what is in the flood waters can harm you," said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club.

All across New Jersey there are contaminated sites being impacted by the flood. Laurence Harbor sea wall, which is a made out of lead has been washed away from Hurricane Sandy putting dangerous amount of lead out into the environment threatening health and safety. Flooding in Jersey City is introducing chromium pollution into waterways. The Newark the Diamond Alkali site containing dangerous dioxin is right off the banks of the Passaic River, which could be affected. There is raw sewage being pumped in Hoboken from overflowing sewers. A concern is the lagoons of toxic waste at the American Cyanamid chemical plant in Bridgewater may be surrounded by flood waters. Places in Bergen County like Little Ferry, Lodi, and Moonachie<,_New_Jersey<a>>are flooding all which contain toxic sites. Overdevelopment in flood prone areas place more and more people and facilities in harm’s way. Water systems are out due to mud, roadways are closed, and enormous amounts of stormwater are polluting our waterways. This pollution is why people should stay out of flood waters and wash themselves off if they enter it. There are many environmental and infrastructure concerns resulting from flooding, power outages, and other impacts from storms like Hurricane Sandy.

"Every time we have a major storm we end up with a witches brew in our waterways. Everything from raw sewage to toxic chemicals to oil tanks to household cleaning products end up in our flood waters possibly in our homes and basements. People need to be careful when they go out in the floodwaters because what is in them can hurt you, "said Jeff Tittel.

Many of New Jersey’s most hazardous facilities and toxic sites that need to be cleaned up are located in flood prone areas. Many are built on riparian lands or wetland fill. The Bayway Refinery in Linden is a former wetland area. Many superfund sites sit in low lying areas. Along the Delaware are the Crown Vantage and Roebling Superfund sites. There is the National Lead site in Sayreville and many toxic sites in Perth Amboy, which is flooded.  Along the Hackensack, Standard Chlorine does not have a slurry wall to protect the river. Little Ferry, which is currently under water contains many toxic sites. Places like Benedicts in Teterboro and Honeywell in the Meadowlands are impacted by the flood. Contaminated sediment in Passaic River could have been moved around during the storm. The Raritan Bay Slag site in Old Bridge and Laurence Harbor has been flooded putting lead into the environment.

"Unfortunately many of our chemical plants, landfills, toxic sites, and other facilities are located in fill on wetlands or flood prone areas. That is why whenever we have floods like this there is a concern toxic chemicals will leak out of these sites and enter our waterways," *said Jeff Tittel*.

We are also concerned that many of the sites that have been capped or have institutional controls could break down and release toxic chemicals into environmental given storm surges, heavy winds, and flooding. In Perth Amboy and Jersey City there are housing developments on capped sites which are in the flood plain. In Weehawken there is a housing development on a capped chromium site sitting on filled in former river shallows that is still located in the flood plain. In Edgewater there is a large toxic plume sitting next to the Hudson River. There are many companies throughout New Jersey that work with hazardous chemicals near flood plains. There are barrels of toxic materials and landfills that could be washed out by flooding.

Sewer plants which are located in flood prone areas cannot only get flooded but stormwater entering pipes can result in overflows. Combined sewer overflow in major cities during heavy rains can result in sewerage entering waterways in cities like Hoboken. In Hoboken they pump sewage in Hoboken out into the river, but these pumps are now out mixing sewage with water out in the street of Hoboken. Our other concern is that sewer plants in Middlesex County Bayshore Plant, and Rahway Valley could flood. Also the Bergen County Sewage Authority is flood area and last year during Hurricane Irene BCUA had to release 50,000 gallons of raw sewage.

With the storm surge destroying many houses and flooded them household chemicals can now get into the water way. Our houses contain many chemicals whether it is paint, gasoline for lawn mower, cleaning products like ammonia or bleach. All of these toxins can end up into the water ways. Multiply this by thousands of houses adds up putting tons of dangerous chemicals out into the environment threatening health and safety.

Another problem resulting from overdevelopment and failure to protect forests and lands is the tremendous amount of water entering our rivers and reservoirs when it rains. At times like this water supplies cannot be taken directly from some rivers and reservoirs because of the polluted stormwater entering the waterways. Heavy rains bring mud and fertilizer into waterways impacting water quality as well as water supply. Siltation entering our water is the single largest source of the parasite cryptosporidium in water supply. This could result in a serious, widespread public health problem as the parasite causes intestine infections and has resulted in deaths.

"People should stay out of flood waters because you do not know what will be in there. There is a mixture of all kinds of materials, chemicals, and pollutants in these waters. You should wear waders in these waters but rinse the water off you and your clothing afterwards," said Jeff Tittel.

The New Jersey DEP only has one inspector reviewing institutional controls and caps and ensuring flooding and other impacts do not impact the controls. We have 118 superfund sites, 16,000 contaminated sites, and 7,000 sites that have been remediated, some of which are very complex. There are about 500 toxic sites near our rivers and about 3,500 are located near groundwater sources and 500 near major water supply wells. Flooding and polluted stormwater could result in toxins from these sites entering our waterways.

"DEP needs to inspect not only these sites but chemical plants, sewer plants, water treatment facilities and other places that could be contributing to or impacted by the pollution. DEP must ensure the caps and controls on these sites are not destroyed and these communities are not exposed to potential problems," said Jeff Tittel.

The New Jersey Sierra Club has been trying for years to get the DEP to prohibit storage of toxic chemicals in flood prone areas. Toxic sites in these areas cannot be capped they need to be cleaned up. Any storage of hazardous materials should be above the 100 year storm level. We need to finally invest money to clean up combined sewer overflows and upgrade our sewer plants to deal with CSOs. We also need to help prevent these plants getting impacted by flooding by raising them higher. We have seen too many storms and we need to flood proof sewer plants and other vital infrastructure.

"We have seen too many floods in the last couple of years impacting important infrastructure and causing pollution to enter our waterways. New Jersey needs to do better job protecting these areas from flooding but also removing toxic pollution from areas that constantly flood," *said Jeff Tittel*. "Every time is rains it pours all this toxic mess into our waterways."

Nicole Dallara, Outreach Coordinator
New Jersey Sierra Club
145 W. Hanover Street
Trenton, NJ 08618
Nicole Dallara, Outreach Coordinator
New Jersey Sierra Club
145 W. Hanover Street
Trenton, NJ 08618
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Received on 2012-10-31 10:48:55

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