EPA approves plan to clean up 'Oil Lake' in the Meadowlands

Posted: Updated:

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has approved a plan to clean up a Superfund site in New Jersey's Meadowlands dubbed "Oil Lake."

The site in Kearny contains tons of contaminated soil from the now-closed Diamond Head Oil Refinery. Officials say that Diamond Head was responsible for contaminating soil, sediment, surface water, groundwater with PCBs, dioxins and other pollutants from the 1940s through the 1970s.

"It's hard to get people to understand the ecological value of the Meadowlands when they read all these negative stories about Superfunds and garbage dumps and the history of the river, so anything the EPA does will help,” says Hackensack Riverkeeper Bill Sheehan.

The $24 million plan calls for taking out thousands of truckloads of the polluted soil. But the plan does not address contaminated groundwater. The EPA says that this will be addressed in a future cleanup.

"The fact that they're able to scrape up the $24 million to do something on this site is a credit to them to wanting to be on top of things,” says Sheehan.

The Trump administration cut overall funding to the EPA in the new budget by 31 percent.

Sheehan says that environmental cleanup has made large strides in the state.

"I'm old enough to remember when we wouldn't be able to stand next to the Hackensack River…without gagging,” he says.

The Diamond Head plant was dismantled more than two decades ago. New Jersey officials requested the site be placed on the Superfund list in 2002.

New Jersey has 115 active Superfund sites, the most out of any state in the country.

The Associated Press wire services contributed to this report.

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