Riverfront park proposed at Newark Superfund site

June 7, 2022 GMT

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — One of the companies alleged to have polluted Newark’s Passaic River decades ago during an era when Agent Orange was produced there is moving closer to building a waterfront park as part of remediation efforts.

The Department of Justice announced a preliminary agreement with the BASF Corp. on Tuesday to build and maintain a 5-acre park in East Newark in an area just north of Route 280.

The Passaic River runs through northern New Jersey and the heart of what was once one of the nation’s busiest industrial areas. It suffered extensive environmental damage from the production of Agent Orange at the former Diamond Alkali site in Newark in the 1950s and ’60s. The toxic herbicide was used during the Vietnam War to remove vegetation that provided enemy cover.

BASF is one of more than 100 entities alleged to have contributed to contamination and natural resource injuries related to the Diamond Alkali federal Superfund site, which stretches 17 miles along the river.

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BASF is the first to propose such a proactive restoration plan, according to the DOJ. If it is approved, the company would receive a $73 million credit for building the park and maintaining it for 30 years, which could be used to offset its potential liability stemming from pollution at the Superfund site.

The public has 30 days to comment on the proposed agreement.

In 2016, the Environmental Protection Agency announced a revised $1.4 billion plan to remove 3.5 million cubic yards of toxic sediment from the lower eight miles of the river, where 90% of the contamination lies. The entire stretch of river bottom would then be capped, trapping the remaining contaminated sediment and keeping much of it from flowing into Newark Bay.