New Jersey has accepted a revised settlement over chemical dumping that turned parts of a Jersey Shore community into one of America’s most notorious toxic waste cleanup sites, but opponents say the deal is only marginally better than before and they plan to sue the state to block it.
The deal adds slightly more protected land and financial compensation for the public over damage to natural resources in and around Toms River, a community that saw its rate of childhood cancer cases increase. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection said Wednesday it finalized the settlement with the German chemical company BASF for decades of dumping by BASF’s corporate predecessor, Ciba-Geigy Chemical Corp.
However, a group representing residents and environmentalists says the new deal is “vastly inadequate, by several orders of magnitude.”
The revised final settlement with BASF increases a cash payment from the company from $100,000 to $500,000, adds another 50 acres of company-controlled land to a conservation and public access plan, and obligates BASF to maintain nine restoration projects outlined in the original agreement for 20 years, up from 10 years in the original deal. The company must also restore wetlands and grassy areas; create walking trails, boardwalks and an elevated viewing platform; and build an environmental education center.
The DEP said the settlement is designed to preserve approximately 1,000 acres of the former industrial site onto which Ciba-Geigy dumped toxic chemicals from dye-making and other operations. It is designed to protect groundwater in perpetuity, and compensate the public for the damage to that resource.
Ciba-Geigy Chemical Corp., which had been the town’s largest employer, flushed chemicals into the Toms River and the Atlantic Ocean, and buried 47,000 drums of toxic waste in the ground. This created a plume of polluted water that has spread beyond the site into residential neighborhoods. It made the area one of America’s most prominent Superfund sites, joining the list of the most seriously polluted areas in need of federally supervised cleanup.
The state health department found that 87 children in Toms River, which was then known as Dover Township, had been diagnosed with cancer from 1979 through 1995. A study determined the rates of childhood cancers and leukemia in girls in Toms River “were significantly elevated when compared to state rates.” No similar rates were found for boys.