Lawmakers seek review of NJ pollution cleanup

AP News
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Posted: Dec 12, 2009 1:08 PM

Lawmakers are asking federal environmental officials to review whether a pollution control project is adequately protecting people who live in a North Jersey neighborhood where a state health report found elevated cancer rates.

U.S. Sens. Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez and U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. took the action a day after the state health department reported that kidney cancer rates in women and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma rates among men are significantly elevated in a Pompton Lakes neighborhood sitting above chemically contaminated groundwater.

"We believe the situation in Pompton Lakes is a serious public health concern and needs immediate attention," the three lawmakers said in a statement sent Friday to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson.

The three called for a meeting of federal environmental officials and community leaders.

The pollution comes from a former munitions factory owned by chemical giant DuPont Co.

In June 2008, the company and the state Department of Environmental Protection reported that chemicals that had migrated from the plant were sending toxic vapors up through the soil beneath 430 nearby homes.

DuPont, based in Wilmington, Del., assumed responsibility and has been installing venting systems in the affected homes. So far, 166 have been installed.

The two chemicals involved _ trichloroethene and tetrachloroethene _ have been linked to cancer in humans. But the state health department report said it could not conclusively link the higher cancer rates in Pompton Lakes and the chemicals because the cancer rates were not elevated for both men and women.

A DuPont spokesman, Robert C. Nelson, said remediation efforts would continue "in a responsible and science-based manner that is protective to the environment and to the safety and health of residents."

Tom Carroll, a 17-year resident who found out in April that he had kidney cancer, worries about being able to sell his house.

"They probably should just have leveled the houses and turned the neighborhood into a golf course or something that wouldn't expose people 24 hours a day to the contamination," he said.

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Information from: The Record of Bergen County, http://www.northjersey.com