On April 10, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced its most expensive cleanup plan ever.  The remedy selected in EPA’s Focused Feasibility Study (FFS) for the lower 8 miles of the Passaic River (Newark, Harrison and Kearny, New Jersey) will cost approximately $1.7 billion to remediate 9.7 million cubic yards of highly contaminated sediments.

Bank-to-bank dredging will remove 4.3 million cubic yards and will capture approximately 18 pounds of dioxin, more than 35,000 pounds of mercury, more than 15,000 pounds of PCBs and nearly 2,000 pounds of DDT. The remaining 5.4 million cubic yards will be left at the river bottom but will be covered by an engineered cap (sand and stone) to prevent the contaminants from becoming part of the food chain.  The dredged sediment will be dewatered locally and then transported by rail for out-of-state disposal.

EPA recognizes that some of the contamination came from companies that are bankrupt or defunct yet expects between 100-200 companies that remain viable to perform the work.  At the estimated cleanup cost of $1.7 billion, the proposed work may force many companies to seek bankruptcy if de minimis, de micromis or “inability to pay” settlements can’t be reached.

Public meetings will be held in May and June to present the cleanup proposal and the other options considered.  EPA also encourages the public to submit comments on the cleanup options by June 20, 2014.  For more information or for a copy of the FFS, click here.