Loopholes in Regional Laws Allow for Incomplete Remediation Thwarting Environmental Sustainability

  •  Renee Pistone    


At least 103 children in Toms River, Dover Township, New Jersey had been diagnosed with cancer in what is believed to be the nation’s largest child cancer cluster. In 1995, a state study found that incidence of cancer among children in Toms River was higher than any other part of the state. In Dover Township, it was reported that 90 children were found to have various types of cancer between 1979 and 1995. Since the original cases, 28 more children there have been found to have cancer, the families said. Over a period of decades, chemical plants, including ones owned by Ciba-Geigy released industrial pollutants into the Toms River. Industrial pollutants leached into the township’s groundwater supply. The pollutants included chemicals used in the manufacture of epoxies, resins, and dyestuffs. In 1983, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) listed the site on the Superfund National Priorities List that includes the country’s most polluted sites. Remediation is now underway at the site and is expected to be completed by the end of 2010. The remediation efforts do not include removal of all the drums. The drums should not be left there in order to keep costs down. The problem here is that loopholes in the law regarding how remediation is carried out in New Jersey allow for too much agency discretion. The compromises that are made between state officials and businesses to lower remediation costs should never raise the citizen’s health risk. This compromise means that drums will be left on-site. The drums will leak again and it is just a matter of time. Leaving the drums there is a danger, an unnecessary risk that leaves children at risk for further injuries. In short, this case study is an example of the large barriers preventing sustainability at the regional level.

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