Site Description-ZV

Preliminary Paper Title: “Superfund Case Study: Not Everybody Bites the Dust”

Author Biography

  • My name is Zachary Valbrun, and I am a fifth-year undergraduate history major attending NJIT. I have an affinity toward history and law, and hope to lead a law career in the near future. My education and experience in Newark are the two things that pushed me to choose the Passaic River as my project site. I always appreciated the little things Newark does offer and I am a big believer in the potential for this city to grow. In my 5 years on campus, I have been able to witness some of this growth firsthand. However, the one area of Newark that I have not seen “growth” from is the riverfront. Coming down Route 21, one would realize how beautiful downtown Newark looked, but also how bland the riverfront that it sat on. I always wondered what hindered development on the riverfront, the likes we have seen in other cities such as San Antonio and New York City. One big incident that really drew my attention to the site was the demolition of the Riverfront Baseball Stadium. This was one of the few jewels I could recognize on the river, and it’s absence highlights the state of the riverfront in Newark. In an effort to find out about the recent activity (or lack thereof) on the riverfront, I chose to dive into the history. This is when I was introduced to the long history of environmental injustice that has plagued the river. 

Site Description

Site Description

  • The Environmental Site I have chosen is the lower stretch of the Passaic River located in Northeast New Jersey. This part of the river starts around Belleville and ends in front of Newark Bay, the 17 mile stretch from the mouth of the river in Newark Bay upwards all the way to Dundee Dam in Garfield, NJ.  It officially includes the Lower Passaic River Study Area, the Newark Bay Study Area, 80-120 Lister Avenue, and the “area extent of contamination”(EPA Superfund WebSite), which is the possible area contaminated.  In 1984, the Diamond Alkali Company became the first site on the river to be listed by the EPA on the National Priorities List, making it a Superfund Site. Diamond Alkali is one of four sites located in the Newark City limits, and although it’s name is specific to the factory sitting on the river, the official size of this Superfund site encompasses the 17 mile stretch previously mentioned. It has been the only site in which the parent company, Occidental Chemical Corporation, has settled a lawsuit for $165 Million individually. A group of companies who contributed to the contamination numbered over 70 parties according to a settlement agreement between the group of companies and EPA. My site is not only the 17 mile stretch of the Passaic River but it is also the group of settlements, cases and meetings between all the companies and government institutions

Historical Question(s)

  • What does naming a Superfund site entail legally?
  • What entities are at play here? What roles did they have in the listing of the Passaic River as a Superfund Site and how do they continue to clash on the legal frontier of this incident?
  • What is unique/consistent about the legal situation of the Diamond Alkali Superfund site as compared to other Superfund sites?

Project Significance

  • I am studying the legal landscape of the Superfund Site located on the Passaic River, the main actors, the reasons for its sluggish progress and how it compares to other places in the history of Superfund Sites. I want to identify the roles both Potentially Responsible Parties (PRP) and the EPA serve in the overall process of this Superfund Site’s tedious remediation and the effects they have on it, so that the reader may understand the obstacles/aids on the legal landscape that prevent/promote justice for the Passaic River.

Keywords: Business, Water, Factories, Toxics, Soil