Gottheimer Announces $19.5 Million in Clean Water Resources for Fair Lawn Families

Oct 05, 2018

EPA Superfund Site Will Expand Treatment Operations to Eliminate 40 Year Threat of Contaminants at Well Field site

Above: Congressman Gottheimer announces the final plan to allocate $19.5 million in clean water resources for Fair Lawn families and children. (L-R) Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club; Congressman Gottheimer; Cristina Cutrone, Fair Lawn Councilwoman; and Assemblywoman Lisa Swain.

FAIR LAWN – Today, U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) visited the Well Field Superfund site in Fair Lawn to announce the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) finalized plan to allocate $19.5 million for expanding and upgrading groundwater clean-up efforts, an important step towards reclaiming the Well Field and restoring clean drinking water from its wells for Fair Lawn.

Joined by Fair Lawn Mayor Kurt Peluso, Fair Lawn Councilwoman Cristina Cutrone, Assemblywoman Lisa Swain, members of the League of Conservation Voters, Sierra Club, and Clean Water Action, Gottheimer celebrated the renewed clean water investment in eliminating the pollutants that have been danger to the Fair Lawn community since they were first found in 1978.

“I am proud to stand hand-in-hand with the members of the Fair Lawn community and the EPA in celebrating this win for clean drinking water for our children, our seniors, and our families,” said Congressman Gottheimer (NJ-5). “Keeping North Jersey’s water and air free of pollution is a not a Democrat or Republican issue, it’s just good for New Jersey. This EPA investment will hold polluters accountable for their damage to our neighborhoods and benefit all who call Fair Lawn home – in jobs created by the clean-up efforts, in improved property values surrounding the Well Field site, and local families’ access to clean water.”

“EPA’s groundwater cleanup plan complements the state’s work to control the source of contamination and reflects years of thorough scientific studies and collaboration with our state and local partners,” said EPA Regional Administrator Pete Lopez. “By upgrading the groundwater treatment system, we are maximizing the removal of contaminants and ensuring the protection of people’s health.”

“Superfund sites are toxic legacies that burden local communities and their economies for decades. Preventing pollution in the first place is the common sense approach. It is cheaper and protects the public and environment from future harm. But when the damage is already done, we need the superfund program and agencies committing enforcing air, water and land use laws,” said Eric Benson, New Jersey Campaign Organizer at Clean Water Action. “We need more people like Representative Gottheimer to be vocal advocates in fighting for EPA funding and enforcement in Washington so we can continue to see more superfund cleanups and better public health protections.”

“We’re here to support an extended clean-up for this Superfund Site to protect public health and make our drinking water safer. Dioxane is a serious threat to the town’s public health and a threat to nearby water sources. It is important that the EPA’s expanded cleanup will not only remove harmful contaminates in the Fair Lawn’s water but find the main source of where those contaminates are coming from. We hope to continue to see the clean-up of the Fair Lawn site go forward to include a system that successfully treats the source of this contaminated water,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “We want to thank Congressman Gottheimer for his efforts supporting this important clean-up and other environment issues across New Jersey.”

“The Fair Lawn Well Field site, full of volatile organic compounds, is within 300 feet of several family homes and borders the Passaic River, which is considered one of the most polluted stretches of water in the nation. Protecting our drinking water and the health of our families should be a top priority of every elected official, and today Congressman Josh Gottheimer, through his leadership, exemplified just that,” said Ed Potosnak, Executive Director of New Jersey League of Conservation Voters. “New Jersey has a long and troubling legacy of industrial pollution, and in order to protect the health of our communities, we must ensure that polluters are held accountable. In the face of a growing anti-environmental movement at the federal level, we commend the EPA and Congressman Gottheimer for fighting for the public health and safety of New Jersey’s families.”

The plan will upgrade treatment systems to maximize the removal of contaminants, including 1,4-dioxane and other dangerous volatile organic compounds (VOCs), from groundwater and municipal wells. In addition to the long term effects of lowering health care costs to the surrounding community, the plan is also estimated to create almost 200 jobs assisting the EPA in remedial activities on the Superfund site.

One in every six Americans lives within three miles of a Superfund cleanup site, including 18 percent of all children under the age of five – and New Jersey is above that national average. With more than 110 sites across the state, New Jersey has more Superfund sites than any other state in the U.S., 39 of which are in the Fifth District.

Since being elected to Congress, Congressman Gottheimer has been a vocal proponent of a commonsense agenda to keep the water, air, and land of North Jersey clean for all generations.

One of the first pieces of legislations Congressman Gottheimer introduced was the bipartisan Lead-Free School Act, which would require school districts to test for lead and boost transparency between parents and districts by publicizing the status and outcome of the testing. He has also called on Governor Murphy to ensure school districts are making lead testing results publicly available to students’ families online.

Congressman Gottheimer has been focused on encouraging North Jersey organizations and towns to demand a better return on investment for their communities and apply for grants that would return federal tax dollars to North Jersey. In March, the Congressman joined local elected officials and first responders to announce that the Fifth District had clawed back $290 per household from Washington – 16% higher than in previous years.

Video of today’s event can be found HERE.

Congressman Gottheimer’s full remarks as prepared for delivery can be found below:

Today, we are here to announce a critical investment in our community to hold polluters responsible and rehabilitate toxic damage done to our land, water, and air, beginning the final chapter in a forty year threat to the residents of Fair Lawn.

With this investment, northern New Jersey clawed back $19.5 million from polluting companies to treat and remove contaminants right here at the Fair Lawn Well Field Superfund site.

Today, more than anything, we are here to celebrate a win for clean drinking water for our children, for our seniors, and for our families. This will also mean new jobs, higher property values in newly cleaned space, improved wellness, and lowered health care costs.

In 1978, pollutants were detected in Fair Lawn’s wells in the residential neighborhoods next to the Fair Lawn Industrial Park – and further investigations by the NJDEP determined that companies in this site were polluting municipal water supplies across Fair Lawn.

Thirty five years ago last month, as a result of those investigations, the EPA added the Fair Lawn Well Fields site to its Superfund National Priorities List.

Through the Superfund program, polluters are held responsible for causing toxic damage to our land, water, and air. This Superfund cleanup was meant to fast-track the elimination of soil and groundwater contamination here – just like thirty five other sites that have been reclaimed across New Jersey.

For the better part of four decades now – as administrations and competing parties have played partisan politics with the EPA budget and our community’s health – this Superfund site has remained a constant threat to the families of Fair Lawn.

Clean drinking water for our kids – clean air to for our families – should never be a partisan issue. Democrat or a Republican, I think we can all agree that polluters should be held accountable for their toxic messes and that we must not allow these dormant environmental catastrophes to continue to threaten our communities.

And it’s no wonder the families of North Jersey are concerned – just look at the headlines in the paper every day. Here’s one headline from the Record last week: “Ridgewood Water shuts down Wyckoff well after very toxic soil dumped.”

Or earlier this year, when the Star Ledger wrote, “Not just Jersey City and Newark: All of N.J. suffers from dirty air”

Or recent investigations like that at the Asbury Park Press, that found that four out of five public water systems in New Jersey – from 2013 through 2015 – reported some levels of lead in the drinking water delivered to homes, businesses, and schools.

Our friends and neighbors in Fair Lawn have never backed down on cleaning up this site. Just a few months ago, residents made their voices heard through public comment to the EPA. My team attended that public forum with more fifty local residents, and we’ve worked closely with the mayor and local officials.

Fair Lawn is tired of having to rely on other sources of water until this site can be fully cleaned up.

They are tired of fearing what their families might be drinking out of the tap.

And they are tired of the threat of this site on their homes, health, and future in Fair Lawn.

Their advocacy is key to why we get to stand here today. They deserve better – and it’s about time they got meaningful results.

In recognition of those voices, the EPA has finalized plans to force contaminating companies to invest nineteen and a half million dollars to upgrade the groundwater cleanup plans and expand the removal of dangerous contaminants at the Fair Lawn Well Field Superfund site.

Ultimately, if this goes as planned, this means that our water supply will no longer be a risk to our friends and neighbors.

It means expanded groundwater and soil treatment to make this space livable and usable again, whether for new small businesses or for expanded open spaces for our kids and families.

And it means a town that has lived under threat of whatever past polluters carelessly left behind here can once again revitalize this park and surrounding area.

I’m proud to have worked hand in hand with local officials like those here with us today and the EPA to make sure that sites like these remain a priority, no matter the current political climate – because there should be nothing partisan about having a clean backyard.

That’s why, since being elected to Congress, I’ve worked to ensure our federal tax dollars that go to Washington are clawed away from Moocher States and back here to our towns.

Earlier this year, I pushed for more federal resources for the Reducing Lead in Drinking Water grant program, the Hazardous Substance Superfund Account, the EPA Brownfields Program, and the EPA’s Public Water Systems Supervision program. It’s time our tax dollars came back to Jersey to clean thing up.

One of my first pieces of legislation that I introduced in Washington was the Lead-Free School Act, which would require school districts to test for lead and boost transparency between parents and districts by publicizing the status and outcome of the testing. It also called on the EPA to move forward on new standards and new rules for water contaminants, including 1,4-Dioxane. We have too many schools with lead in the drinking water, a huge danger to our children – and it’s time we did something about it. It’s time we enforced one of the laws on the books in New Jersey requiring all schools to test and post annually for lead in their water.

In fact, I sent another letter to Governor Murphy earlier this week on this topic to urge him to start enforcing this law. No parent should have to worry if their child will be poisoned by lead. We spoke to the Governor’s office yesterday and I’m hopeful for quick action on this issue.

Again, today’s announcement is a victory for Fair Lawn, but this win will resonate far beyond the city limits. For it is hardly the only community under threat.

One out of six Americans live within three miles of a Superfund cleanup site, including 18 percent of all children in the U.S. under the age of five, and that number is even higher here in New Jersey.

New Jersey has the most Superfund sites of any state in our nation – more than one hundred and ten of them.

And 39 of those sites are in the Fifth District alone.

Rehabilitation here will be another critical step in protecting New Jersey from reckless pollution and keeping our neighborhoods clean for future generations.

Investments like the one provided today by the EPA will allow us to finally close the forty year history of the pollution from this site.

Completing the clean up on this site means fulfilling our promise to our children.

It is a down payment not only on our community’s health – one which will help lower health care costs of all generations present and future by eliminating exposure to toxic substances – but also on our economic prosperity and growth.

On this site alone, the EPA estimates this new investment will create almost 200 jobs assisting the EPA to expedite and complete the cleaning of this Superfund site.

And across Region 2, Superfund sites – including those in New Jersey – an estimated 10,000 jobs were already created in service of a cleaner community.

In the long term, this nearly twenty million dollar shot-in-the-arm for the cleanup efforts on this site will raise the quality of life and property values for all around it.

Restored Superfund sites in Region 2–and we look forward to adding this site to that list–generate over $21 million in annual property tax revenues for local governments.

And beyond the economic benefits here in Fair Lawn, the cleaning and closure of this Superfund site will mean that the next generation of North Jersey residents can live with the peace of mind that their neighborhoods will not be threatened by the reckless pollution of companies long gone from this site – and help ensure that, in the greatest country in the world, our best days will always be ahead of us.

Thank you, God bless you, and may God continue to bless the United States of America.

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