RELEASE: Gottheimer, EPA, NJDEP Announce Lower Hackensack River Added to Federal Superfund Clean-up Program

Sep 07, 2022
Press

Gottheimer Successfully Fought for Additional Superfund Investment in Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill

Above: Gottheimer announcing that the Lower Hackensack River will be included in the federal government’s Superfund clean-up program.

SECAUCUS, NJ — Today, September 7, 2022, U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer, along with Congressman Donald Payne, Jr. (NJ-10), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP), and local elected officials, announced that the Lower Hackensack River is now officially included in the federal government’s Superfund clean-up program. This will help protect our water, our wildlife, our air, our open spaces, and — most importantly — our children and families. As Co-Chair of the Problem Solvers Caucus, Gottheimer fought to include additional investment in the Superfund Program in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill, which makes one of the greatest investments in American history to address pollution in communities across the country.

This Lower Hackensack River snakes from the Oradell Dam to the Newark Bay — and flows past Fifth District communities like River Edge, Hackensack, Oradell, Teaneck, Bogota, and others. It was contaminated by chemical dumping over the years, including mercury processing facilities in Carlstadt and Wood-Ridge, a chemicals facility in East Rutherford, Standard Chlorine in Kearny, and Scientific Chemical Processing in Carlstadt. 

This new Superfund designation will bring critical resources to more fully boost our clean-up efforts and to protect our communities that line the river. It makes those responsible for the contamination pay to clean it up — it rightly holds them accountable — so that our communities no longer have to face the consequences of gross negligence by bad actors.

“After years of fighting to clean up and protect our local waters, the Lower Hackensack River has now officially been included in the federal government’s Superfund clean-up program,” said Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5). “As Co-Chair of the Problem Solvers Caucus, I fought hard to include additional investment in the Superfund Program in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill that I helped shape and pass. It makes significant investment in cleaning up Superfund sites, making it one of the largest investments in American history to address pollution in communities across the country. This will help protect our water, our wildlife, our air, our open spaces, and — most importantly — our children and families.”

Gottheimer was joined today by Congressman Donald Payne, Jr. (NJ-10), NJDEP Commissioner Shawn M. LaTourette, Deputy Regional Administrator Walter Mugdan, Secaucus Mayor Michael Gonnelli, and Hackensack Riverkeeper Captain Bill Sheehan.       

Video of the announcement can be found here.

Below: Gottheimer announcing that the Lower Hackensack River will be included in the federal government’s Superfund clean-up program.

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Gottheimer’s full remarks as prepared for delivery are below.

Today is a great day. As you heard, after years of fighting to clean up and protect our local waters, the Lower Hackensack River has now officially been included in the federal government’s Superfund clean-up program. This will help protect our water, our wildlife, our air, our open spaces, and — most importantly — our children and families. 

What does today’s action really mean? No more waste, no more contamination, no more illegal dumping. 

This river snakes from the Oradell Dam to the Newark Bay — and flows past great Fifth District communities like River Edge, Hackensack, Oradell, Teaneck, Bogota, and others. But, as we all know, it was contaminated by chemical dumping over the years, including mercury processing facilities in Carlstadt and Wood-Ridge, a chemicals facility in East Rutherford, Standard Chlorine in Kearny, and Scientific Chemical Processing in Carlstadt. 

The Hackensack River was once thought to be among some of the most polluted watercourses in our nation. Yes, in the nation. To give you an idea of how bad our waters were, there were stories that, at one point, the nearby rivers literally caught fire. 

Sadly, the sight of dead fish washing ashore in the Newark Bay and along the banks of this river have become all too common. That gives new meaning to a well-known saying around here — “sleeping with the fishes.”

That’s why I’m proud to be joining this group today — standing shoulder-to-shoulder with leaders from across our great state — to announce this historic action in our fight to protect and clean up our local waters, so that, one day, we can swim here and fish here, like so many used to, and not worry if the years of waste and dumping will harm our communities. 

Through vital cooperation between the State of New Jersey and the federal government, we’ve now made enormous progress to make all of this possible.  I’m proud to have played a role with everyone here in making that happen. 

This new Superfund designation will bring critical resources to more fully boost our clean-up efforts, and to protect our wonderful communities that line the river, too. That’s what the law requires. It makes the people responsible for the contamination pay to clean it up — it rightly holds them accountable — so that our families no longer have to face the consequences of gross negligence by bad actors.

At the federal level, we must make sure that we continue our support for the Superfund program. It’s why I fought so hard, as Co-Chair of the Problem Solvers Caucus, to include additional investment in the Superfund Program in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill that I helped shape and pass. It invests $3.5 billion in cleaning up Superfund sites, making it one of the largest investments in American history to address pollution in communities across the country.

Our efforts can’t end with rivers and streams, though — we also have to protect our children from dangerous lead that continues to threaten Jersey students’ drinking water in schools. 

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill that we passed last year also invests $1 billion in critical water infrastructure needs to get forever chemicals and lead out of our families’ water, and overall improve the quality of life for New Jersey residents.

And the Inflation Reduction Act, that we just passed and was signed into law, puts in place the most important climate investments in our nation’s history. It will cut energy costs, increase American energy security, and reduce emissions by about 40 percent by 2030. It will also make it easier and more affordable for Jersey families to move toward alternative energy. 

We’ve also had other great successes in tackling our water issues: I helped lead the call to create a centralized, easy-to-access school lead water reporting database for the State of New Jersey, so that parents and communities could finally have the right up-to-date information on dangerous lead water in their children’s schools. And a key piece of my bipartisan legislation, the Lead-Free Schools Act, was enacted into law, creating a targeted pilot program using existing resources to improve drinking water infrastructure in schools nationwide that have lead in their water.

Together, I know that we can all help keep our air and water clean for our families, our children, and our grandchildren.

With the critical new action we’re announcing today, here in the greatest country in the world, I know 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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