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Impact Perth Amboy: Toxic Waste a Potential Problem for Perth Amboy

Heather Taylor

Heather Taylor

Submitted by Heather Taylor
from The Citizen’s Campaign

PERTH AMBOY – Members of Impact Perth Amboy, a citizen leadership program facilitated by The Citizens Campaign, gathered at their monthly meeting to hear reports from the group’s task forces.
The force leaders told of significant progress on developing doable solutions to help the city in the areas of education, the environment and the arts.  But the main focus of the evening was on waterfront development and storm resiliency.

Shaneil Stokes of Lewis Street shared his draft on prospective redevelopment properties along the waterfront, including both the Raritan River and the Arthur Kill. He reviewed new state financial sources for incentivizing development. A related draft proposal for waterfront amendments to Perth Amboy’s Master Plan and development regulations prepared by The Citizens Campaign’s Law & Policy Task Force was also provided.

Mr. Stokes report is designed to be a quick reference for potential developers to find each waterfront property’s ownership, size, environmental clean-up status, city agencies which can facilitate redevelopment and other useful information.

Harry Pozycki, Perth Amboy resident and Chair of The Citizens Campaign, reviewed the proposal for storm resiliency amendments to the City Master Plan and to development regulations for waterfront properties. He suggested that the cities that have prepared for storm resiliency in their Master Plan and zoning requirements are likely to be first in line for storm resiliency infrastructure funds from the federal and state government.
Pozycki also explained that developers will be more inclined to invest in Perth Amboy’s waterfront if they know that infrastructure is planned to prevent adverse storm impacts to the properties they are interested in.

But, the bombshell of the evening came when guest speaker and former Columbia University research scientist, Andrew Voros informed the citizens of a serious and looming threat to Perth Amboy’s economic development prospects posed by the imminent remediation of the former American Cyanamid Landfill in Carteret on the Rahway River could result in cyanide, petroleum and other toxins being discharged into the Arthur Kill and Raritan Bay.

The project known as “Rahway Arch,” plans to seal 2 million tons of cyanide-contaminated sludge along the Rahway River with a 29 foot high pile of contaminated dirt, which the contractor disposes of for a profit.
Rahway Arch happens to also be in the heart of the area that was hit hard during Sandy, resulting in major flooding throughout the region. When the next major storm hits, it could easily open the floodgates for this contaminated sludge to seep into the same areas, and down the Arthur Kill into Raritan Bay, along Perth Amboy’s waterfront.

Several New Jersey organizations already banded together to fight this deal. NY/NJ Baykeeper and Delaware Riverkeeper have actions before federal or state courts regarding Soil Safe, the ironically named company seeking to do the project.
NY/NJ Baykeeper has filed an appeal of the permit issued by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection until a flood impact study has been completed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  The Rahway River Storm Water Advisory Board has also expressed serious concerns that filling the 90 acre floodplain will increase upriver flooding.

Despite engineering reports warning of the potential collapse of the site during a storm, the project has moved to approval and can begin soon if nothing is done tizen’o stop it.

Already New Jersey Congressman Donald Payne, Jr. and US Senator Charles Schumer of New York have called for a halt to the project until a more thorough study can be completed.

The citizens were shocked by this threat to their efforts to incentivize environmentally sound redevelopment of the city’s waterfront and determined to bring the city government to full awareness of this apparently serious threat.

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