More, More, More New Jersey

Week four is our third full week in New Jersey. I am really looking forward to getting off the NJ Turnpike and Garden State Parkway in the *very* near future but, alas, not quite yet. Several of this week's sites were located near the Raritan River which looks more like a creek to me, but provides pretty scenery as you drive along the local roads which flank it. There were people sitting at park benches by the Raritan, eating lunch and soaking up the last drops of summer-like sun. Of course, the picturesque view is tarnished by the fact that the surrounding industry has been polluting it with stuff like pesticides, metal plating waste, organic tars and even Agent Orange.

Two such sites are Brook Industrial Park and the American Cyanamid Company. Brook Industrial at 100 West Main Street is an active, light industrial complex on the other side of the tracks (quite literally) from the Bound Brook town center with the Raritan River running along the far side. Bound Brook's Main Street has a few shops and restaurants, many serving Latin food (Latino popluation is now about 35%). This small town is (in)famous for two things: the Battle of Bound Brook (April 13, 1777), in which the Continental Army suffered a defeat by the British, and the flooding of Main Street due to rising waters of the Raritan River. In September 1999 during Hurricane Floyd the waters reached the highest levels (42.13 feet) since 1800. Pretty god awful considering what's in that water!

The New Jersey Transit train rushed by as I was trying to make out the names on the sign at 100 West Main. It appears that towing, construction, metal and technology companies primarily make up the mix of occupants at 100 Wet Main. My favorite company name in the list was "Down to Earth Services."

The industrial site dates back to the late 1800s. More recently in the 70s, Blue Spruce Chemical was making pesticides that were later banned in the US, forcing them to (no, not stop production, silly, but...) export to other countries. Blue Spruce also stored Agent Orange, which contains the frightening toxin dioxin.

Another company at this site, Jame Fine Chemical, illegally discharged cooling water used in the manufacture of mandelic acid into the Raritan River. Materials from Jame Fine, Blue Spruce and a third company -- National Metal Finishing Corp (which still seems to exist at the location) -- have mixed and migrated to ground water. Investigations were initiated in 1980 when workers within these buildings became ill.

The nearby American Cyanamid Company site is in the middle of a larger, industrial area that is today home to Dow, Nissan, Patriot Media, P&R Castings, as well as many pharmaceuticals. Supposedly pharmaceuticals are still manufactured on the site which originally produced over 800 chemicals. In its approximately 64 years of operation, the company made pharmaceutical, dyes and textile chemicals, organic pigments rubber compounds, and various intermediate chemicals. Approximately 800,000 tons of chemical waste were discharged to 27 unlined lagoons and areas on the site. These lagoons generally contain either organic tars, lime or waste water treatment sludges, and are the source of severely contaminated groundwater under the site.

The actual site was hard to identify since I did not have my GPS with me that day, only a crude map without an exact address. There are several barren and fenced off areas in this industrial zone that could be part of the site. One spot with a "No Dumping, Private Property" sign next to a "For Sale" sign seemed like a good bet to me. Both signs now signal to me "Superfund" based on my few weeks experience.

Further east, near the Raritan Bay, I visited the Horseshoe Road site on Day 23. Again I had the same problem of not knowing when I "arrived" without an exact street address. But I think I found the site, or part of it at least. It was a barren plot right next to the Garden State marked with a "No Dumping, Private Road" sign and the land was littered with rusty bulldozers.

The site was a "drum dump" with a pretty complex history and many actors. I imagine you are probably asking what is a drum dump. Here goes the soupy (and likely incomplete) list for this one: 70 corroded drums, some labeled cyanide; over 1,000 drums containing volatile organic compounds (including toluene), semivolatile organic compounds, heavy metals, pesticides and PCBs; at least 160 corroded or crushed drums with benzene, ethylbenzene, toluene, 1,2,4-trichlorobenzene, copper, and mercury; spilled mercury directly on the ground; 30 5-gallon containers of sodium cyanide.

Your next question, I imagine, is who is responsible for this terrible mess? The list of Responsible Parties today totals 33, including AT&T, Bank of New York, Chevron, Novartis, Dow, 3M, General Motors and Bankers Trust.

A few days later, on Day 26, I was a bit further southwest from the Horsehose Road dump, in East Brunswick visiting the Fried Industries site. Fried Industries made industrial cleaners, cleaning agents and floor finishers. In the early 1980s, the EPA armed with a search warrant found hazardous wastes improperly stored on the site and, in a limited excavation, found deteriorated buried drums. Surface and ground water were contaminated as well as private well water.

The site today is an overgrown, swampy lot in the middle of a dense, residential area. I was not surprised to read it was once a sand and clay quarry. A new, large house is under construction directly across the street and another house is for sale down the block. There were a few people outside doing yard work when I passed through and around the corner at the Milltown Rangers AC club the manger was out back having a smoke.

Those are my observations and select highlights for Week Four.

Till next week!
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