NJ town wants fed involved in pollution cleanup

December 15, 2009 8:23:44 PM PST
A New Jersey community is outraged and is looking for answers after a health report revealed an alarming number of cancer cases in the neighborhood.The Pompton Lakes neighborhood sits above chemically contaminated groundwater, and hundreds attended a meeting Tuesday night to address the report. Now, they are calling for the federal government to take over cleanup the DuPont work site.

The New Jersey Department of Health on Friday released the report, which found that kidney cancer rates in women and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma rates among men are significantly elevated in the neighborhood.

At the meeting, Citizens for a Clean Pompton Lakes released a 10-point plan for dealing with the contamination. They are calling for the area to be listed on the National Priority Superfund list, which would put the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in charge of of the cleanup and make the site eligible for federal and state grants.

"We must not let DuPont continue to poison our community any longer,'' Councilman Edward Meakem said. "We must take control of this clean up from DuPont and place it in the hands of federal experts.''

In June 2008, the company and the state Department of Environmental Protection reported that chemicals that had migrated from the plant were sending toxic vapors up through the soil beneath 430 nearby homes.

DuPont, based in Wilmington, Del., assumed responsibility and has been installing venting systems in the affected homes. So far, 166 have been installed.

The two chemicals involved - trichloroethene and tetrachloroethene - have been linked to cancer in humans. But the state health department report said it could not conclusively link the higher cancer rates in Pompton Lakes and the chemicals because the cancer rates were not elevated for both men and women.

A DuPont spokesman, Robert C. Nelson, said remediation efforts would continue "in a responsible and science-based manner that is protective to the environment and to the safety and health of residents."

Tom Carroll, a 17-year resident who found out in April that he had kidney cancer, worries about being able to sell his house.

"They probably should just have leveled the houses and turned the neighborhood into a golf course or something that wouldn't expose people 24 hours a day to the contamination," he said.

Nelson issued a statement Tuesday reiterating the report's declaration that the pollution and disease incidences in the neighborhood could not be linked. He said overall cancer rates, "specifically, brain and central nervous system cancer incidence, which was of particular concern to the community," were not elevated.

(Content from the Associated Press was used in this story)