A Frog in Boiling Water is Being Taken Advantage of by a Bogus ‘Recycling’ Facility in Carteret, New Jersey
by Rabiya Khan
The delta of the Rahway River is bordered with factories and industrial complexes. It acts as a natural border for northeast New Jersey and New York. The site called Metro12 touches the river from three sides. The recycling facility, Soil Safe, was granted permission to dump hazardous wastes on this property and cover it with a cap in 2014. This area is susceptible to flooding and erosion, yet the project was approved despite some community opposition. Industries that have been established in this area since colonial times are here to stay, and its presence invites more corporations. The plot was nearing its best health in years, until the mounds of toxic sludge undid all the progress. There are new efforts to make the river a historical site and maybe in the future, a natural reserve. If eco-friendly campaigns were instigated earlier, what would the town look like? Maybe it would smell better at least. The risks are great in this area yet recycling plants are attracted to the discount prices and quiet acceptance by the community. Despite the natural resources and its beneficial access, there are hardly any parks. The community has lost hope and interest in its forgotten river. The industrial advantages overshadow more holistic qualities of the river delta. It is in danger of accidents all the time but no one would notice if it ever happened. There are no significant environmental groups or committees that play an effective role in the future of Carteret and its continuing industrialization.
As a resident of Carteret township for the past few years, I feel oddly at home surrounded by the peculiarities that have become familiar to me. The monumental white storage tanks, fields of satellite dishes the size of cars, midnight train whistles, the continuous drone of the nearby parkway, low flying planes, countless smoke stacks, and the intimidating cogeneration plant looming on the horizon define this community. Another environmental waste site or toxic mound among countless others will not be noticeable to me at all. The Rahway River should be a defining feature of this port town, but I often forget about its existence completely. Publicly accessible river banks for recreational use are few and far apart. Industries, active sites or abandoned, have claimed the majority of this abused water source. The Rahway River acts as a natural border for northeast New Jersey, New York and Staten Island. It is a town located 20 miles away from New York City and is just one of many port towns that surround the tributaries connected to the Hudson River, Newark Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. Exit 12 off of the New Jersey Turnpike welcomes you to the peculiar town of Carteret with a massive Amazon Warehouse obstructing the view of oil farms just behind it. Just between the gigantic warehouse and the river, is a plot of land called the Rahway Arch, with 40 years worth of contaminated sludge.1
The myriad of corporate facilities connected to the river have been a vital part for the development, industrialization, and economic growth of this area for centuries. Despite the benefits, it seems as if the environmental burden is about to reach its boiling point after years of neglect and waste accumulation. Between 1930 and 1970, the wetlands surrounding the river banks could not be developed on, so it was used as a common dumping site for not only industrial waste, but also for garbage, chemicals, medical waste and other unknown toxic wastes.2 Since it was the dumping site of numerous industries through a long period of time, the danger to human health has not been thoroughly investigated.3 Cyanide was the most abundant substance found in this concoction. It is a carcinogen, meaning that physical exposure to it can cause cancer. If the waste leaches into groundwater, or is eroded into the river, the residents will be exposed to a huge health crisis.4 The toxic waste produced by American Cyanamid plant, between 1954 to 1970, ‘was mixed with contaminated water from the Arthur Kill’ into six massive impounds.5 About 200 acres of land was reduced to a bathtub of toxic material brought into Carteret from surrounding industries.6 Two million tons of soil contaminated with cyanide, petroleum, sewage, and other toxins were carelessly and haphazardly stored right next to moving water, and a vulnerable minority community.7 This initial capping technique had failed, the contamination was exposed due to erosion because it is surrounded by water from three sides.
Years of slow bleeding toxic waste in the town’s infrastructure takes years to mitigate. In order for Carteret to begin recovering from decades of environmental damage, it should begin by prioritizing long term solutions instead of hiring private recycling facilities like Soilsafe. Soilsafe is a so-called recycling facility tasked by the landowners to clean up the reckless waste accumulation. The plot is located on the Rahway Arch, named after the shape of the river bend, and has been an abandoned EPA protected site for decades.8 It has been the subject of controversy because of its misleading narrative, suspicious political ties, outrageous project risks, and lack of transparency with the community. The ambiguous details of the project made me more curious, and I was surprised to see the true impact of this clean-up project. It is hardly considered clean-up since there will be more waste in the end, more than ever before.9 Soilsafe comes off as a sound and eco-friendly company, but it is far from the truth.10 The community has been led to believe that Soilsafe is making the community safer, when in contrast, is exposing them to long term risks. They have been conditioned to put up with the unfair prioritization and the short term solutions, essentially financial shortcuts, to deal with this serious environmental danger. The intentions of SoilSafe are misrepresented, allowing the company to put even more environmental burden on the residents. As the anecdote goes: if a frog was placed into boiling water, the assumption would be for it to jump out immediately. If it is sitting in lukewarm water with the temperature gradually increasing, it will be less perceptive to the imminent danger. This paradox is comparable to the condition of Carteret, New Jersey in response to the protocol of the waste treatment plant.
Rahway Arch Properties bought the abandoned plot after the EPAs restrictive deed was expired.11 This meant that the property could not be altered or reworked in order to preserve the integrity of nature, and to leave wildlife undisturbed so that the healing process could begin.12 The permits retained by the company allow it to process construction debris, petroleum contaminated soil, used tires, asphalt, and other mildly toxic waste, but the contamination at Rahway Arch is too vast, concentrated, and unique to be identified into a single category.13 Establishing a temporary facility on-site was a way for Soilsafe to retain its status as a type B Recycling facility.14 The Environmental Protection Agency approved of this project despite its low level permits.15 A conditional approval was granted so that remediation could begin as soon as possible, since the deteriorated barriers keeping the cyanide secure was now exposed to open air and water.16 The decision was unsuccessfully contested in court by the conservationist group called Raritan Baykeeper Inc.17 The property evaluation was done by a private company called EastStar Environmental Group Inc. and not by an impartial party such as the EPA itself.18 It is important to mention that Soilsafe has contributed to Stephen M Sweeneys State Senate campaign, who is also an owner of the Rahway Arch Property.19 Another owner is Paul Wiener, who is ‘the law partner’ of another state senator who receives $75,000 rent money from Soilsafe.20 “State Senator Bob Smith is chairman of the Senate Environmental Committee.”21 He just so happened to represent Soilsafe in a previous’ hearing before an elected county board.’22 A recycling facility has no business being so entangled in politics as well as controversial permit approvals from stakeholders. One can assume these ties helped the facility obtain permissions and permits with ease. This underhanded bartering system completely takes advantage of my lack of participation in public hearings. I had no idea this project was so close to home. Just behind a nearby warehouse, a company was putting my health at risk without my knowledge. It was quite literally out of sight, and out of mind.
Water can carry contamination anywhere and everywhere, risking more than just the lives of precious plants and animals. Human health is still at risk since the property was acquired by SoilSafe. People can be exposed to toxins in a myriad of ways due to bioaccumulation, it can destroy the body from the inside out. Heavy metals and organic materials are easily absorbed into the body. They are persistent and stay in the system for extended periods of time. The current remediation is repeating mistakes of the past, there should have been more consideration to the sensitivity of this land, and to its proximity to the abused river bank. I was under the impression that the contamination would be recycled or treated; converted into non-toxic material safe enough to be exposed to people. This is the interpretation that the company promotes, but the toxins are not going anywhere, the material will not be re-usable or reduced in any way. The sludge will be covered, or capped, with layers of even more dirty soil.23 This process is a more advanced version of the impoundment strategy that was applied just a few years prior, the same strategy that proved this technique’s inability to control and contain toxic waste.24 Concerned community members are constantly directed to the project website created by Soilsafe. It describes the mission, objectives, and projectection of the project, but details of the procedure are nowhere to be found.25
These implications were not gone unnoticed by environmentalists, but the emails and letters were cast aside and given roundabout responses of how the proper procedures were conducted.26 Staff members involved with the authorization of this proposal in 2010 “came away appalled” and one even noted that it was “not sustainable” and believed permits were pushed through because of “profit-driven motivation.”27 In 2013, the proposal was reviewed by another agency, it found that the ‘technically questionable’ mound would be destroyed by floods and the mound would eventually collapse because of its weight.28 The observation came true, most of the site was completely submerged under water after Hurricane Sandy.29 This was to be expected since the entire property, and communities near the river, are located in a Flood Hazard Area.30 Rahway River is prone to flooding, soil erosion is inevitable. The soil excavation will make the flooding worse, especially to surrounding communities.31
Soilsafe is technically a recycling facility according to EPA standards.32 In order for this operation to be legal, it will need to bring in 1.5 million tons of contaminated soil from another so-called recycling plant.33 Critics of this project “question the logic of introducing new contaminants to the property as a way to ‘clean it up.’ All DEP staff concerns about the project are being overridden by the Governor’s top staff.”34 This alarming fact is hidden and kept quiet by the facility, anyone seeking clarification or details about this transfer are directed to the Soilsafe project website, which blurs the picture even more.35 Rahway Arch’s sister plant is located in Gloucester County, the site is called the Logan property.36 It is a 160 acre brownfield that holds dredged contaminated soil from a past operation by the Army Corps of Engineers.37 The Delaware River is adjacent to this site, and has similar risks of flooding and leakage compared to Rahway River, so why are residents in central New Jersey getting a better deal?38 There is farmland and ample property to store waste, with no proximity to residents, but in order for the Rahway Project to be meet the legal guidelines, the soil needs to be treated with SoilProduct, a trademark that is not endorsed by the EPA.39 The process of mixing the Logan soil with concrete or construction debris creates the trivial SoilProduct; physically moving the mixture to Rahway is considered a ‘recycling’ process.40 The risk and proximity to residents is greater in the Rahway Arch property. The median income of Logan residents is $85,000 and an overwhelming majority (79%) of the residents are white.41 I can’t help but compare the condition of these two situations, especially since Carteret has one of the highest immigrant populations in New Jersey.42 There is more concrete and soil than plant life on Carteret’s side of the river, increasing the rate of erosion, compared to the abundance of foliage on the Delaware River. The waste would be secure, and broken down faster if Soilsafe reversed the roles of these facilities.
The seemingly subtle topography changes from this operation affects the community in a significant way. According to City-Data statistics, 65% of residents in Carteret are non-white, and 20% of Black Americans are living in poverty.43 It is crucial to emphasize the demographics because it is directly related to income distribution. The median household income decreases as the community reaches further downstream.44 $52,000 is the lowest median income range located at the headwaters, while residents at the delta region earn a median of about $75,000.45 In the event of flooding, garbage and soil is deposited in the most densely populated, and poorest neighborhoods.46 If the soil is eroded enough or there is leakage on the toxic mounds, the people will be exposed to deadly toxins all across Carteret in the event of slight flooding. There is too much to lose, and too much uncertainty for this project to continue with confidence.
Judith Enck, EPA regional administrator in 2014 was “concerned about the cap’s design basis and impacts that may occur during its construction.”47 Specifically, she fears that the added weight will create pressure on groundwater, which can change ‘its direction and flow.’48 These factors were not considered by the permit providers or the planning committee.49 She continues stating that ‘the cap will put pressure on existing berms, whose structural integrity have not been clearly determined and could “potentially cause a catastrophic release.”’50 Several Staten Island assembly people have expressed their concern, and applaud that some interest has been taken by the EPA on this shady operation.51 They want transparency regarding the project, after they were directed to the Soilsafe project website, the ambiguity validated the suspicion.52 The council members state that an unsafe remediation will put their constituents, on the other side of the river, at risk of contamination exposure.53 “NY Senator Schumer has already denounced the Rahway Arch Project.’54
Despite the risk, Soilsafe comes off as an environmentally efficient facility. The photo above was taken directly from the SoilSafe project website and has clear intentions of minimizing the dangerous process of inefficient soil contamination cleanup.56 This is the website that is constantly pointed to by the company in response to questions or concerns. The image produced by SoilSafe is aesthetically pleasing despite the fact that the location is meant to store extremely toxic waste such as heavy metals. As discussed earlier, the waste will not be moved to a safer location, in fact more contaminated soil will be brought from another Soilsafe location to be layered and eventually capped by the company.57 In reality, the result of this process is uncertain, and unstable. This moment was captured before the land was disfigured. It was intended to convince curious residents and environmentalists that the project is some small scale construction contrary to the limited view. A recycling facility dealing with contaminated soil is expected to take extra precautions when it comes to environmental protection. Rahway river is partially visible, the banks will rise after rainfall while increasing its surface area. It may carry contamination further than the Rahway Arch. The hazardous waste will not only spread to nearby communities, but also leak into the ocean where it will be impossible to control. New York City in the near distance is a reminder that residents once commuted daily, crossing the Bayonne bridge, and seeing the difference in landscape. One side of the river is a grey, and bleak sight: the industrialized zone. Coming home from work the residents enter a world of oil tankers and strange buildings. This will be another landmark that differentiates the city from Carteret. The waste is not in the photo at all, instead the viewers see the land before its destruction, creating a false narrative that the end result will preserve the natural topography. The amazing view that this photo reveals is not visible to residents of Carteret, they are not allowed near this site. Years before the acquisition, the EPA declared this area an environmental hazard.58 Now that Metro12 has brought more contamination here, the community will be denied access to this natural asset indefinitely.59 The fact that the company portrays the facility as environmentally friendly is alarming and this image proves that it is trying to minimize the issues raised from prior lawsuits. This misrepresentation is an act of environmental injustice since the community at risk is not properly informed about the intentions, risks and future of the waste storage project.
After almost a decade of litigation, planning, excavation, and processing, the project is reaching its conclusion. The intentions of the remediation project have changed drastically since its inception in 2012.59 It states: “A 25-acre portion of the capped impoundments will be developed as a parking lot to support the adjacent warehouse facility, and the 40 acres of wetlands surrounding the impoundments will remain as wetlands and habitat.”60 The temporary facility was allowed to be established out of necessity to begin remediation immediately.61 The conditional permits tried to reduce the scale of the operation, but the limit was chipped away over time.62 Will the community and wildlife finally be able to stand on this buried poison to reap the benefits of the river? They will not. The parking lot promise was just an excuse for the property owners to hire a private facility, like Soilsafe, to make this land profitable as soon as it could despite the risks. This freshly dug grave will be thrown into another long term construction project.63 The initial stages for this project are underway, but the public hearings will not be effective because of social distancing guidelines in effect.64 The property owners want the return on investment quickly, by creating warehouses on one million square feet of the Rahway Arch.65 The ground is expected to break before the end of this year, while the remediation is still ongoing.66 This news is unsettling, after years of doubt and concern about the sustainability of this project, the land will be pushed to its limit with this new proposal. Residents living less than a mile away from this site will be in immediate danger if the predictions of environmental experts come true.
The project seemed disarming at first, but further investigation revealed deeper and more dangerous implications of this supposed restoration program. We discussed how the narrative of this project had been distorted to conceal the true intentions of SoilSafe. Comparing the facility in Carteret to its sister plant in Logan township proved how my community has been unjustly bearing the environmental burden for wealthy suburbians living around 90 miles away. The reason behind the community’s lackluster relationship and interaction with this facility was due to financial and political reasons.
1SoilSafe, “Rahway Arch Project History,” Carteret-Clean Timeline, 2019
2 “Rahway Arch Project History,” 2019
3“Rahway Arch Project History,” 2019
4“Rahway Arch Project History,” 2019
5“Rahway Arch Project History,” 2019
6“Rahway Arch Project History,” 2019
7“Rahway Arch Project History,” 2019
8“Rahway Arch Project History,” 2019
9“Rahway Arch Project History,” 2019
10“Rahway Arch Project History,” 2019
11“Rahway Arch Project History,” 2019
12“Rahway Arch Project History,” 2019
13“Rahway Arch Project History,” 2019
14Doug, “What is required to obtain a Class B Recycling Permit in New Jersey?,” Resource Management Associates (Environmental Questions and Answers). December 2020
15“Rahway Arch Project History,” 2019
16“Rahway Arch Project History,” 2019
17Susan Loyer, “Court upholds DEP-issued permits for Carteret site,” My Central Jersey Newsletter. January 25, 2018
18 Susan Loyer, 2018
19 Michael Powell, “In Plan to Dump Contaminated Soil, Classic New Jersey Politics Emerge,” New York Times. February 24, 2014
20 Michael Powell, 2014
21Michael Powell, 2014
22Michael Powell, 2014
23SoilSafe, “Rahway Arch Project History,” Carteret-Clean Timeline, 2019
24“Rahway Arch Project History,” 2019
25“Rahway Arch Project History,” 2019
26 Racheal Shapiro, “EPA has ‘serious concerns’ about Rahway Arch soil plan in Carteret, N.J.; Island contamination impact feared,” SiLive: Advance Local, January 3, 2019 https://www.silive.com/news/2014/11/epa_has_serious_concerns_about.html
27Michael Powell, “In Plan to Dump Contaminated Soil, Classic New Jersey Politics Emerge,” New York Times. February 24, 2014
28 NJNY Baykeeper, “Our Fight for Clean Soil,” Waterkeeper Alliance Newsletter.
29SoilSafe, “Rahway Arch Project History,” Carteret-Clean Timeline, 2019
30“Rahway Arch Project History,” 2019
31“Rahway Arch Project History,” 2019
32 Site Remediation Program Office of Community Relations (Site Background and Project Projection) “Former Cytec Industries Site,”. July 2012
33 NJNY Baykeeper, “Our Fight for Clean Soil,” Waterkeeper Alliance Newsletter.
34 Michael Powell, “In Plan to Dump Contaminated Soil, Classic New Jersey Politics Emerge,” New York Times. February 24, 2014
35SoilSafe, “Rahway Arch Project History,” Carteret-Clean Timeline, 2019
36 Mark Smith, “Logan Development” (Soilsafe project description), 2012
37Mark Smith, “Logan Development”
38Mark Smith, “Logan Development”
39Mark Smith, “Logan Development”
40Doug, “What is required to obtain a Class B Recycling Permit in New Jersey?,” Resource Management Associates (Environmental Questions and Answers). December 2020
41Cubit, “New Jersey Demographics,” December 2020
42City-Data (Census and data repository). December 2020
43City-Data (Census and data repository).
44City-Data (Census and data repository).
45City-Data (Census and data repository).
46City-Data (Census and data repository).
47Racheal Shapiro, “EPA has ‘serious concerns’ about Rahway Arch soil plan in Carteret, N.J.; Island contamination impact feared,” SiLive: Advance Local, January 3, 2019
48Racheal Shapiro, “EPA has ‘serious concerns’ about Rahway Arch soil plan in Carteret, N.J.; Island contamination impact feared,”
49 Racheal Shapiro, “EPA has ‘serious concerns’ about Rahway Arch soil plan in Carteret, N.J.; Island contamination impact feared,”
50Racheal Shapiro, “EPA has ‘serious concerns’ about Rahway Arch soil plan in Carteret, N.J.; Island contamination impact feared,”
51Racheal Shapiro, “EPA has ‘serious concerns’ about Rahway Arch soil plan in Carteret, N.J.; Island contamination impact feared,”
52Racheal Shapiro, “EPA has ‘serious concerns’ about Rahway Arch soil plan in Carteret, N.J.; Island contamination impact feared,”
53Racheal Shapiro, “EPA has ‘serious concerns’ about Rahway Arch soil plan in Carteret, N.J.; Island contamination impact feared,”
54Racheal Shapiro, “EPA has ‘serious concerns’ about Rahway Arch soil plan in Carteret, N.J.; Island contamination impact feared,”
55 Soilsafe, (main page photo). Soilsafe Inc. 2020 https://www.soilsafe.com/index.php/facilities/metro12
56Soilsafe Inc, 2020
57Mark Smith, “Logan Development” (Soilsafe project description), 2012
58SoilSafe, “Rahway Arch Project History,” Carteret-Clean Timeline, 2019
59 Site Remediation Program Office of Community Relations (Site Background and Project Projection) “Former Cytec Industries Site,”. July 2012
60 “Former Cytec Industries Site,”. July 2012
61Susan Loyer, “Court upholds DEP-issued permits for Carteret site,” My Central Jersey Newsletter. January 25, 2018
62Susan Loyer, “Court upholds DEP-issued permits for Carteret site,”
63Susan Loyer, “Three Massive Warehouses Proposed for Carteret Industrial Area,” Bridgewater Courier News. September 25, 2020
64Susan Loyer, “Court upholds DEP-issued permits for Carteret site,”
65Susan Loyer, “Court upholds DEP-issued permits for Carteret site,”
66Susan Loyer, “Court upholds DEP-issued permits for Carteret site,”
Great Kills park Environmental Cleanup Project
This 2016 project description thoroughly explains the cleanup project of Great Kills Park in Rossville, NY. This source can be compared to the very different yet similar project in Metro 12, in Carteret.
Created in 2016, Updated in sept, 2020
Research, investigation reports, and data are available to the readers. This information is public knowledge and even provided by the project organizers, unlike the secretive and confidential reports of the Metro12 facility. I will be able to compare this clean up site to the one in Carteret so I can prove why the acquisition of the Rahway Arch is an environmental injustice.
Urge our Local Officials to Stop the Rahway Arch Project: Looming Flooding and Environmental Disaster
A call for community action to oppose the Rahway Arch Project, list of contact information and fact sheet including links to informative websites.
Aug/ 27/ 2014
This source is the official website of the NY/NJ Baykeeper, it is educating the public of the risks and dangers of this recycling facility and convincing them to participate in the opposition. This organization sued both Soilsafe and the EPA regarding this 5 year project.
In Plan to Dump Contaminated Soil, Classic New Jersey Politics Emerge
New York Times article exposing the acquisition as a political scheme
Feb, 24/ 2014
I can use this article to prove that Soilsafe was not chosen for its practical, efficient, or eco-friendly methods to clean up this site. I can use this information to prove that there was considerable opposition to the site yet the state decided to settle for a cheap, short-term solution at the risk of the publics health and denied the community of its future recreational use.
Rossville NY is a half mile away from Metro12 NJ, separated by the Rahway River. In 2014, SoilSafe was under scrutiny because of its suspicious acquisition of a superfund site located in an area called the Rahway Arch. This private company was hired to set up a recycling plant that will cover the toxic sludge with a thick cap. The legality of this short term solution was decided by a court case between the Baykeeper organization. I want to show how relying on EPA guidelines, recommendations, and services are much safer for a community than hiring a third party corporation. It may be a major environmental injustice if I can properly compare the situations of two neighboring communities that share the same risks: Carteret and Rossville.
The last article discusses how this corner cutting was common practice by some unpopular politicians including Chris Christie. I want to use the information from this article to paint a clear picture of the community’s involvement and consequences compared to the practice of a nearby neighborhood. Rossville is a wealthy suburban area consisting of mostly white-coller families. This community is surrounded by parks and the response to the adverse environmental issues are quite different compared to New Jersey. The website to this clean up site is far more informative than its counterpart. It displays geographical images, future projections, environmental study reports, EPA guidelines/ checklists, and contact information. The Soilsafe company redacted all of its environmental studies for the sake of protecting trade secrets. Transparency surely has a direct influence on the public’s reactions and opinions about a project.
Managing Contaminated Sediments, Patrick Jacobs and Ulrich Forstner, Review Articles of Department of Environmental Science and Technology, University of Technology of Hamburg-Harburg, (2001)
This information will help me explain the risks and dangers of recycling contaminated soil. There are a lot of methods of disposal in this research, but I will have enough information to draw my own conclusions. This was published in 2001 and mentions that these methods are cost effective and have been used for decades, this will help me prove that the Metro12 recycling plant uses outdated and cheap tactics to get rid of this type of waste. It explains that heavy metal contamination is the most difficult to process, and has the highest potential for danger making it more important to expose this recycling facility.
New Methods of Cleaning up Heavy Metal in Soils and Water, Micheal Lambert, Hazardous Substance Research Center, (2000)
This is a brief meant to educate the public about alternative ways to treat contaminated soil. Metal contaminants are very hard to recycle, this analysis will help me prove that the Metro12 waste site could have been cleaned up in more environmentally sound ways. There are many techniques listed in this source and it provides cost estimates and time frames that are so much more efficient than the process happening now. It gave me more reason to criticize the risky decisions of this project since they decided to cut corners instead of going for more environmentally sensitive methods of recycling than capping.
New York’s Fresh Kills Landfill Gets an Epic Facelift, Elizabeth Royte, Audubon, (2015)
This article describes the environment of Fresh Kills Park in Staten Island. This was once the largest landfill, but environmental recycling has made this park the epitome of progress and community prioritization. There is a lot of historical data I can use to prove how differently New Jersey and New York deal with contaminated wastes. It is benefiting not only the people, but also the health and wildlife of the Rahway River. It describes the history of the tri-state area, specifically of the types of wastes abandoned here. The fact that this project relied heavily on community participation can be compared to the lackluster involvement of New Jersians and their environment.
SoilSafe acquired a prominent plot of land in 2014, surrounded by the Rahway river from three sides. The area is called the ‘Rahway Arch’ since the curve of the river creates geography similar to a peninsula. This land is sensitive to contamination because of its extremely close proximity to the Atlantic Ocean and heavily populated places like New York City and Staten Island. The Metro12 recycling facility overcame multiple lawsuits concerning the potentially dangerous environmental impact to nearby residents and wildlife. Despite the risk, Metro12 comes off as an environmentally efficient facility. The photo was taken directly from the SoilSafe project website and has clear intentions of minimizing the dangerous process of inefficient soil contamination cleanup.
The image produced by SoilSafe is aesthetically pleasing despite the fact that the location is meant to store extremely toxic waste such as heavy metals. Heavy metals are a persistent contaminant since they degrade very slowly and can be displaced relatively easily. The waste will not be moved to a safer location, in fact more contaminated soil will be brought from other locations to be layered and eventually capped by the company. In reality, the result of this process will leave giant mounds of dirty soil littering the once beautiful landscape displayed in the image. This moment was captured before the land was disfigured. This photo was intended to convince curious residents and environmentalists that the project is some small scale construction contrary to the limited view.
The foreground misleads the viewers into perceiving the project as intimate and noninvasive. The focal point of the image would be the bright yellow bulldozer on the unaltered land. Other than the few vehicles, there is no activity or people in sight. This makes the area look unused and abandoned. The boundaries of the property are unclear from the angle of the image, this choice of perspective was intentional. There is no way of telling how much land the company acquired and how much foreign soil is being transferred here. The lack of activity portrays this area as an empty lot, but it could have been used for recreational rather than industrial purposes. The website did not inform the readers of the scale or risks of the project, we assume from the photos, language, and imagery that the intentions are to preserve the environment. In fact, the altercations will leave Rahway Arch with more contaminated wastes on valuable and sensitive property.
A recycling facility dealing with contaminated soil is expected to take extra precautions when it comes to environmental protection. Rahway river is partially visible, the banks will rise after rainfall while increasing its surface area. It may carry contamination further than the Rahway Arch. The hazardous waste will not only spread to nearby communities, but also leak into the ocean where it will be impossible to control. The implications are not apparent from this little slice of undeveloped land in the photo. The proximity of the river is too close for comfort. New York City is the epitome of progress and innovation, so the looming buildings are meant to be synonymous with this project. Bayonne bridge, a monumental landmark, is at the center of this image. It is another example of progress and achievement since it is one of the largest steel bridges in the world. The bridge connects the city to New Jersey, it is a technology that commuters utilize everyday. The river physically separates the seemingly interconnected geography, it also removes the project from these locations creating the illusion that the two cannot affect each other. The mountains of capped soil will be an eyesore and a bleak reminder to residents of the environmental hazard that will exist indefinitely in their neighborhood.
Commuters, passerbys, and those on airplanes can visualise the borders of New Jersey by identifying the monumental white containers that are infamous in Carteret township. Contaminated waste storage tanks are concentrated in Carteret, so their persistent existence is underrepresented in this photo. The tankers are off to the side and out of focus, Metro12 uses this photo to alter the perception that the project is isolated from these tanks. The waste in question is nowhere to be seen and neither are the mounds of dirt that will render this field unusable for decades. Hidden behind the foliage beyond the river are just a few of the numerous tanks that will now be accompanied by a more dangerous short term solution that Metro12 is introducing to this community. New Jersey seems to constantly bear the environmental burdens for its neighbors on the other side of the river.
Residents visiting the Metro12 website for clarity will be left with an altered understanding of the intentions of the recycling project. The photo implies that the plot is unusable and abandoned so no one will miss it once it’s developed. Carteret is home to commuters who frequent New York almost daily. The aesthetically pleasing location will soon be another storage location for the seemingly endless waste in the tri-state area. The waste is not in the photo at all, instead the viewers see the land before its destruction, creating a false narrative that the end result will preserve the natural topography. The amazing view that this photo reveals is not visible to residents of Carteret, they are not allowed near this site. Years before the acquisition, the EPA declared this area an environmental hazard. Now that Metro12 has brought more contamination here, the community will be denied access to this natural asset indefinitely. The fact that the company portrays the facility as environmentally friendly is alarming and this image proves that it is trying to minimize the issues raised from prior lawsuits. This misrepresentation is an act of environmental injustice since the community at risk is not properly informed about the intentions, risks and future of the waste storage project.