KIYC: Perth Amboy Mayor Wilda Diaz raises concerns over Rahway Arch cleanup

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection has issued final permits to a controversial remediation project on the Rahway River. (7/7/14)

CARTERET - The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection has issued final permits to a controversial remediation project on the Rahway River, despite concerns from some environmentalists that it might do more harm than good. Meanwhile, Perth Amboy Mayor Wilda Diaz has become the latest public figure to question the project, expressing concern that it could adversely impact her city's waterfront.

Kane In Your Corner first reported on the Rahway Arch project last summer. The old American Cyanamid site in Carteret is one of New Jersey's most contaminated sites, with acres of cyanide-contaminated sludge. The plan, which received its final permits last week, calls the site to be capped with tons of petroleum tainted soil. As Kane In Your Corner has reported, some of the NJDEP's own staff repeatedly expressed concern the project could force sludge into the Rahway River. The agency now says all of its personnel are on board with the plan, although some NJDEP staffers privately say otherwise.

In Perth Amboy, Mayor Wilda Diaz is concerned about the safety of the project, noting her city just spent $17 million on waterfront improvements. "The last thing you want is to have an environmental issue on our hands after the huge investment that we have made," she says.

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Some environmentalists are also worried about the lack of financial safeguards attached to the project. The final permit approvals do not require the current property owner to post money in escrow or make any financial guarantees in the event the remediation fails. The NJDEP says that's because the law requiring those guarantees only applies to properties vacant after 1983 and the Rahway Arch site was vacant since the 1970s.

The agency says in the event of a problem, former owner American Cyanimid/Cytek would be on the hook financially since it created the pollution to begin with. But Debbie Mans, the NY/NJ Baykeeper, worries about a scenario in which one company is primarily responsible for the cleanup while another is primarily responsible if things go wrong, saying that does not create the best incentive for work to be done properly.

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