Passaic river flowing over rocks.

As the founder of Northeast Earth Coalition, I am deeply invested in the health and safety of our natural resources and have been saddened by the decades-long pollution of the Passaic River. Montclair, Glen Ridge, and Bloomfield are connected to the Passaic River through Toney’s Brook and the Third River, both tributaries of the river.

According to the EPA, “The contaminated sediment of the lower Passaic River poses a significant threat to people’s health and the health of wildlife that live in and along the river. The primary risks are from eating contaminated fish and shellfish from the river. The sediment contains deadly dioxin, PCBs, mercury, and other harmful chemicals that have caused long-term health problems, birth defects and cancer in some of New Jersey’s poorest communities.” 

Today, I am writing to express my concerns over the Environmental Protection Agency’s recent settlement with 85 of the responsible polluting companies for $150 million in damages. While holding polluters accountable is an important step in the right direction, I feel as though this solution does not go far enough in facilitating cleanup efforts. Firstly, this settlement holds only some of the responsible parties accountable while letting other companies off the hook. Secondly, the $150 million price tag is only a fraction of the estimated $2 billion total cost of the cleanup. I worry this sends the wrong message to polluters by not holding them responsible for their full share in polluting damages. 

These companies brought dangerous chemicals into our ecosystem and should pay the full costs to clean up the river. Doing so would ensure that companies feel the consequences of their actions and can help prevent future polluting problems in the future. 

Residents in the Passaic region have endured the consequences of river pollution for far too long. They deserve a thorough and comprehensive cleanup. I respectfully urge the EPA to hold all polluters fully responsible for the damage they have caused. Each entity must pay their fair share of the cleanup costs. This approach will protect taxpayers and ensure that polluters are held accountable for their actions.

Jose German-Gomez is founder of the Northeast Earth Coalition.

3 replies on “Environmental Call on Local Issue (Letter to the Editor)”

  1. This consent decree was published last December, after which there is a 45 day window for public comment. This ended about 7 months ago.

    If anyone wishes to be heard on a EPA consent decree, visit this webpage, find one or more consent decrees that are currently still open to public comment, and make a comment.

  2. Basically this agreement is like the Glen Ridge Fire contract , but for all NJ taxpayers. And NJ taxpayers got a 45 day comment window. What was the window for us for the GR agreement?

    Oh well. It’s just money. The important thing is us taxpayers are taking over responsibility to make things right.

  3. Jose German-Gomez of the Northeast Earth Coalition’s concerns are extremely valid. When the Passaic River floods, it rinses over the most toxic dumping grounds in our territory, left over from Patterson’s Industrial Revolution era. The tract from Patterson to Newark is all highway (Rte 21) and adds more toxic runoff. The former toxic dumping areas are adjacent to neighborhoods that struggle with the flooding. Belleville (Beautiful Town) was indeed an amazing natural landscape with farms, estate properties and a maritime village. Look at it now along the River. Good thing is the environmental quality of life actually seems to be improving over the last two decades thanks to awareness and concern.

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