The Superfund site at the Lower Hackensack River has become a pressing environmental issue, affecting not only the natural habitat but also the health and well-being of local communities. Located in Bergen County, NJ, the Lower Hackensack River is a vital waterway that stretches approximately 23 miles, providing important ecological services and recreational opportunities for the communities along its banks. In the past, the river has been subject to various pollution sources, including industrial waste, sewage overflows, and urban stormwater runoff.

In 1980, the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) established the Superfund program to address the most hazardous waste sites in the United States. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) placed the Lower Hackensack River site on the National Priorities List (NPL) in 2021, making it a Superfund site.

Contamination and Environmental Risks

The contamination at the Lower Hackensack River stems from a variety of sources, namely historical industrial waste and illegal dumping. Over the past 200 years, the site has been an industrial hub and, in addition to decades of sewage and chemical dumping, the water in this section of the river is among some of the most contaminated water in the country.

Some of the most prominent pollutants found at the site include polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), heavy metals, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), dioxins, and furans. Exposure to these contaminants may lead to respiratory issues, liver damage, cardiovascular diseases, various cancers, and other immunocompromising conditions.

Affected Areas

Starting near the city of Hackensack, NJ, this Superfund site extends all the way from the Oradell dam down to Newark Bay. Unfortunately, the direction of water flow in this area allows contaminants to spread beyond the Hackensack River and, ultimately, into the Atlantic Ocean near Staten Island, NY.

Sediments along the river have been found to contain heavy metals such as arsenic and Mercury, which have led to several bans and limitations on the harvesting or consumption of fish from this stretch of the river. Additionally, PCBs, PAHs, dioxins, and furans have also been found in the river leaving anybody who lives near it at risk.

Unfortunately, only a few miles to both the east and west of the river, lie the Hudson River PCBS, Ventron/Velsicol, and the Diamond Alkali Co. Superfund sites. This means that areas such as Kearny, Belleville, Newark, Staten Island, and Jersey City are nearly surrounded by Superfund sites and the chemicals within them that have been deemed harmful to human life.

Risks Associated with Contaminants at the Lower Hackensack River

Due to the industrious nature of the area, a wide variety of dangerous chemicals can be found throughout the area. When coupled with large amounts of sewage, the dangers of a contaminated area such as this are quite extensive.

In the past, PCBs were widely used in electrical equipment, hydraulic systems, and other industrial products. These chemicals are extremely persistent in the environment and have been linked to various health problems, including cancer, reproductive issues, and neurotoxicity.

Also found at the site are heavy metals such as lead, mercury, and arsenic. These substances have been linked to various cancers and have even been linked to type II diabetes and cardiovascular disease. These contaminants can often accumulate in the food chain and pose significant health risks to humans and wildlife alike.

In addition to heavy metals and PCBs, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) have been detected in the river along with dioxins and furans. These are commonly found in petroleum products and are known to have carcinogenic and mutagenic effects. Most often, they are found as a result of burning fossil fuels, and they bind with particles in the air. As a result, these contaminants are often found spread among the surrounding area.

The contamination in the Lower Hackensack River has led to significant ecological risks, including the loss of fish and wildlife habitat, reduced biodiversity, and overall ecosystem degradation. Additionally, the contaminated sediments pose a risk to human health, particularly for those who consume fish or shellfish from the river or engage in recreational activities near the water.

Legal Remedies and Compensation for Injured Parties

For those who have been affected by contamination at the Lower Hackensack River Superfund site, there are several legal options available to seek compensation for damages. These include personal injury claims, property damage claims, class action lawsuits, and other legal routes associated with toxic torts.

If you or your family have experienced health issues or property damage as a result of exposure to contaminants from the Superfund site, you may be entitled to compensation. An experienced environmental attorney can help you navigate the legal process and gather the necessary evidence to support your claim.

In some cases, affected parties may choose to join together in a class-action lawsuit against the responsible parties. This can help to streamline the litigation process and increase the likelihood of securing compensation for all plaintiffs.

Please note that it is crucial to seek medical attention if you feel you have been injured as a result of the chemicals at a Superfund site in your area. For those that have been affected by these sites, we are here to help. OnderLaw is dedicated to holding companies accountable for their negligence, especially when it results in terrible conditions for those who fall victim to it.

If you feel your community may have been impacted by the contaminants found in the Lower Hackensack River, contact our experienced environmental law team today.