Operation Rolling Blunder: Agent Orange’s Newark Legacy and the Fight to Clean Up the Ironbound

By Ryan Giust

            The Diamond Alkali plant, later known as Diamond Shamrock after its merger with Shamrock Oil and Gas, was located at 80-120 Lister Ave in the Ironbound section of Newark, NJ. It is widely known as the producer of Agent Orange during the Vietnam War. Agent Orange was an extremely toxic herbicide used for clearing the jungles of vegetation so the Viet Cong could not hide and ambush US troops. It is linked to cancer and birth defects among the Vietnamese population as well as troops that served there. This paper will focus on how a by-product of the manufacturing process of Agent Orange, dioxin, affected the Newark area, as well as the activism by Ironbound residents to get it cleaned up. Dioxin is an extremely toxic chemical that the Diamond Alkali company dumped into the Passaic River and its carelessness in handling and storage also resulted in the ground water being polluted, and the chemical spread throughout the Ironbound unknown for years. The Diamond Alkali plant was classified as a Superfund site in 1984, and the environmental side effects are still being dealt with today.

My research question is: What role did the activists play in getting the parties responsible to clean up and contain the dioxin? Why were they successful and what did they do? I also want to look into whether the Newark area is considered safe now and any current concerns regarding the Diamond Alkali site. The cleanup is still ongoing, particularly with the Passaic River and it would be relevant to include how that is being carried out and what future plans there are for the cleanup.