EPA Moves Forward with $332M Cleanup of Berry’s Creek

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the cleanup plan to remove mercury, PCBs, and chromium contamination from the Berry’s Creek Study Area, which is part of the Ventron/Velsicol Superfund site in Bergen County. Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler signed off on the cleanup plan on September 25. At an event in Moonachie, EPA Regional Administrator Pete Lopez was joined by New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) Acting Associate Commissioner for Policy Katrina Angarone to highlight this major milestone in the Berry’s Creek recovery.

“This cleanup plan represents significant environmental progress for the people of New Jersey and the restoration of water bodies and land impacted by the contamination,” said Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “Under President Trump, the Superfund Program is a top EPA priority, and we are making great progress expediting sites through the entire remediation process and returning them back to safe and productive use.”

“EPA is moving forward with a smart and scientifically sound approach to clean up the contamination responsible for the greatest risks to the environment and which threaten other areas of Berry’s Creek,” said Pete Lopez, EPA Regional Administrator. “The New Jersey Meadowlands have suffered environmental degradation for decades and it is past time to take action that will put the Berry’s Creek area on the path to recovery.”

“EPA began looking at cleaning up Berry’s Creek nearly a decade ago. Today’s record of decision gets us one step closer to that goal. Remediating Superfund sites goes a long way to protecting natural resources and public health. And it is only right that the polluters, and not the taxpayers, are expected to bear the financial responsibility for cleaning up the mess they created,” said Congressman Bill Pascrell, Jr. “I also believe that advancing work at the heavily-contaminated Berry’s Creek Study Area can allow us to start addressing the broader problems throughout the Meadowlands and Hackensack River.”

“The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection looks forward to continued work with the EPA on remediating Berry’s Creek and removing the high concentrations of chemicals from the waterway,” said Mark J. Pedersen, the DEP’s Assistant Commissioner for Site Remediation and Waste Management. “This interim cleanup should not only improve the overall environmental health of Berry’s Creek but add greatly to the quality of life and public health for residents in nearby communities.”

Berry’s Creek is a tributary to the Hackensack River traveling through Carlstadt, East Rutherford, Lyndhurst, Moonachie, Rutherford, Teterboro, and Wood-Ridge, and includes approximately six miles of waterway, tributaries to the creek, and approximately 750 acres of marshes. The major contaminants in the Berry’s Creek Study Area are mercury, methyl mercury, PCBs, and chromium, which are at high levels in the water and sediment. The areas selected for this cleanup address a major portion of the contamination within Berry’s Creek, which act as a source of contamination to the other areas of the site, as well as to animal life.

Over the course of the past seven years, EPA has overseen an in-depth investigation of the extent of the contamination, examining sediment, water and fish sampling data, as well as assessing how the tidal action in the creek moves sediment through the watershed. The cleanup announced today once completed will be studied for its effectiveness, and a final cleanup decision will be made at a future date.

Berry’s Creek Superfund site was included on the first-ever Administrator’s Emphasis List. The Administrator’s Emphasis List is composed of sites that will benefit from the Acting Administrator’s immediate and intense action. Specifically, the site was added to expedite the release of the cleanup plan – an important step in addressing serious contamination at the site.

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