Cleaning the Hackensack: The Superfund Option

As widely reported in the Bergen County media, Captain Bill Sheehan, the Hackensack Riverkeeper, has very recently succeeded in getting the attention of federal officials who oversee the nation’s cleanup of contamination that creates an imminent and substantial threat to human health and the environment – the Superfund.  Does the Hackensack River system qualify; is this federal program the best way to clean the River?

On Monday April 13, Captain Sheehan will lead a Bergen Grassroots meeting in a candid conversation with supporters and critics alike about his  rationale for proposing to have the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) examine the River and determine its eligibility to be named a Superfund Site.

Sheehan has made clear that the decision to seek this designation NOW was a difficult one. The factor he indicates has prompted his latest effort is that relying on other State, county and local processes has taken and will take too long. Whether placing the Hackensack into the Superfund program will accelerate the process is unclear. Still, Sheehan’s initiative has, according to published reports in the Record, been well accepted by some local officials (http://www.northjersey.com/news/officials-welcome-superfund-possibility-for-hackensack-river-1.1272046?page=all). Were the River to be named a Superfund site, it is unclear from where  the resources to accomplish the required cleanup would come. They may be drawn from the River’s many pollutors (i.e. or those who are still viable), from the federal funding of the Superfund program itself or some combination.  These issues too will be sure to feed a lively discussion at the BGR meeting.

Join us at the Bergen Grassroots meeting (at the ECS Auditorium at North and Larch in Teaneck) on April 13.

It should be noted that it is possible that the Riverkeeper’s Superfund initiative will prompt Hackensack remedial efforts by other governmental units. The State recently set specific compliance dates to address one major continuing source of Hackensack pollution.  After years of discussion about the adverse effects on the River of the many CSO (combined sewage outflows) which are released primarily when untreated stormwater and sewage overwhelm local treatment of combined flood and sewage systems), the State is finally apparently taking action and the costs to muncipalities in particular are likely to be substantial.

An added feature to the April 13 meeting will be BGR’s announcement and description of its first Young North Jersey Environmental Innovator award – to be awarded at the BGR May 11 Meeting.