(NaturalNews) The people of Pompton Lakes, a lakeside community in New Jersey just 20 miles northwest of Midtown Manhattan, have suffered long enough. Three rivers run through the town of nearly 12,000, including the Wanaque, providing many outdoor activities for the folks residing there, and for urban dwellers seeking a temporary escape from the city. From the mountains, you can gaze at the dazzling New York City skyline off in the distance.
Chemical giant DuPont manufactured ammunition for the Spanish-American war at a factory in the borough and dumped chemicals from the facility into Pompton Lakes' environment from 1902 to 1994, disrupting the community's peacefulness, causing illness and death.
Today, the abandoned 600-acre campus is a hotbed for toxicity. The site contains high concentrations of mercury, lead, the cancer-causing solvents PCE and TCE, and other heavy metals and pollutants, according to a report by NorthJersey.com.
Over the years, the chemical company has spent millions to clean up 60 of the "most seriously contaminated areas," removing pollutants from the soil and the nearby Wanaque River; however, more than 140 tracts of contaminated land remain.
Instead of finishing the job, DuPont wants to cover it up and walk away, performing a "clean up" far below the government's standards for chemical spills, which they intend to move forward with following government approval.
Through a federal records request, The Record obtained a proposal in which DuPont is asking to "leave some of the contaminated soil in place and cap it," rather than hauling it away for proper disposal.
The proposal has angered residents beyond belief. The site's toxins have entered the soil, creating a poisonous gas that's migrated into the basements of at least 500 homes, sickening the people inside after they inhale cancer-causing TCE.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) declared trichloroethylene, or TCE, "'carcinogenic to humans' by all routes of exposure," according to the Daily Environment Report. TCE harms fetal development, the central nervous system, kidneys, the liver, the male reproductive system and the immune system.
The New Jersey Department of Human Health and Senior Services released a report a few years back which found a "significantly elevated" cancer rate in the region near the DuPont site in Pompton Lakes. Kidney cancer rates in women and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in men are occurring at much higher rates than other areas. Nearly 13,000 people have signed a petition ordering DuPont to clean up their toxic mess
Citizens For A Clean Pompton Lakes, a watchdog group for the environment, has fought hard to get the former ammunition factory site cleaned up. Lisa Riggiola, a former councilwoman and spokesperson for the group, asked residents in a local town meeting how many have cancer, or know someone who does; nearly everyone in the crowd raised their hand.
DuPont wants to "cap" the toxic soil rather than remove it, because capping it is much cheaper, an action routinely allowed by environmental officials.
"It's very sad to hear that after all these years they would even want to leave some of this contamination here, knowing it's traveling to other communities and knowing people have gotten sick," said Riggiola.
In New Jersey, the state standard for allowable lead content in land not used for residential use is 400 milligrams per kilogram (mg/kg). Anything above that must be cleaned up.
DuPont's proposal is asking to leave behind 1,100 mg/kg for areas designated for public recreation, and 1,300 for areas inaccessible to the public.
Mercury would be cleaned up to a level of 65, 450 or 570 mg/kg. The state's required standards range from 14 to 270 mg/kg.
Due to backlash from the community and government, officials promised the plan would be "significantly revised."
"The people of Pompton Lakes have suffered for more than three decades with this contamination," said Ed Meakem, a former councilman. "To allow a corporate polluter off the hook with a less than thorough cleanup is unacceptable."