Plainfield’s Contaminated Sites

After the Flint water crisis, there seems to be increased interest in our immediate environmental concerns. It was recently reported that many New Jersey cities, including Plainfield, have a higher proportion of children with dangerous lead levels than in Flint, Michigan. Here it’s not from water contamination, but from paint.

At least most of the time. Earlier this month, Newark turned off the water in thirty of its schools when lead was found to be above the federal “action level”.

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Many of the toxic sites in Plainfield. Click on the link at the end of this post for the full interactive map.

But the historically industrial Garden State has a bigger phenomenon – toxic sites. Around ninety percent of New Jersey residents live within one mile of such a site, most of which the Department of Environmental Protection claims are no risk to the public. The DEP has outsourced the cleanup to contractors who decide which sites are remediated, and when. The state maintains the right to step in when it deems there is immediate concern.

As you might expect, black and Latino residents are more likely to live by toxic sites, and toxic sites with no remediation plan. Poorer residents disproportionately live near these places as well.

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The WNYC Data News team has mapped out all of the toxic sites in New Jersey, including Plainfield – click here. This interactive map shows whether or not a particular site has a clean up plan, and whether or not the state has deemed it a high priority.

You can listen to a seven minute WNYC interview with reporter Sarah Gonzalez below.

3 thoughts on “Plainfield’s Contaminated Sites

  1. David – I suggest caution with the term “toxic”. Gasoline that you put in your car is toxic, but if you don’t ingest it, it’s not harmful to you. You need to be exposed to the substance for it to harm you. Most of the dots on your map are in fact not “toxic” sites at all, but merely contaminated sites. Contaminated doesn’t sound great either, but the sites are typically underground storage tanks that once contained diesel fuel, gasoline, dry cleaner chemicals, etc. The tanks are usually deep underground and there’s no risk of you being exposed to the substances they contain. Of course there is a chance that the tanks leaked and therefore pose a RISK to the public or environment, and in those cases they are addressed by licensed site remediation professionals.

    Folks that are truly concerned can use this link to the NJDEP GeoWeb site where you can do your own research and find out exactly what kind of sites are in your neighborhood.

  2. This is why the city needs to keep after brownfield grants and any other assistance to clean the sites. April Stefel is an expert on this topic, which is part of the reason why people were appalled when she was laid off during the last administration and almost laid off in the proposed outsourcing of the Planning Division more recently. As much as Plainfield enjoyed industrial ratables in the last century, the unfortunate legacy has been a need for remediation of contaminated sites before they can be re-purposed. The developer of the South Second Street site has agreed to clean that site. The East Third and Richmond site also needs remediation. It is a problem, but not one without solutions if the city keeps after it.

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