CLICK HERE to access Britta Forsberg’s (SBB’s Executive Director) submission detailing her public comments regarding the settlement.
After the January 17th webinar, our guest speaker followed up with some additional information asked by attendees during the event. CLICK HERE to access this supplemental information, which ranges from the federal cleanup status of the site, to historical background on the pipeline that former ran from the site to the Atlantic Ocean.
Historical Background on the Site:
The site is located in Toms River, Dover Township, Ocean County, New Jersey on approximately 1,350 acres of land. On-site structures include piping associated with the groundwater collection system, the groundwater treatment plant, and office facilities for remediation personnel. Approximately 320 of the 1,350 acres were developed and used for manufacturing operations, waste treatment, disposal activities, and administrative and laboratory facilities. From 1952 to 1990, Ciba-Geigy manufactured dyes, pigments, resins and epoxy additives.
As a result the plant’s decades-long use for manufacturing, concern grew regarding the potential contamination of the land and groundwater of the aquifer below. In 1983, the site was officially designated as a federal Superfund site, which is a site that has been contaminated by hazardous materials and identified by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a priority for cleanup. EPA remedial investigation of the site began in the year following and was focused on the following: addressing the contaminated groundwater and removing the approximately (now estimated) 47,000 buried drums to a location offsite. Since remediation efforts began, the toxic “plume” of contaminated groundwater has shrunken in size but has not been fully resolved.
Remediation, however, is ongoing; for a history of the site’s cleanup, check out the official EPA superfund site page.
In the 1990s, families in adjacent Toms River neighborhoods reported higher-than-normal rates of cancer and eventually link these illnesses to the industrial pollution of the plant in a class-action lawsuit against the Ciba-Geigy Corporation, Union Carbide Corporation, and the United Water Toms River. The lawsuit alleged that 35,000 people in the community unknowingly drank water tainted with carcinogens that leached into their water source from the operations at the plant. Tragically, 15 children lost their lives because of this pollution, and the community continues to deal with even more instances of cancer that could potentially be linked to the site. The class-action suit was settled when the three defendants paid $13.2 million to 69 families with children diagnosed with cancer; other families declined this settlement.
Cancer cluster official state report 2003 linked HERE, which found higher than expected data for all malignant cancers investigated.
Why Save Barnegat Bay is Concerned
While at surface value, the NRD settlement might sound like a promising outcome for the site’s painful lingering history, we are concerned that it does not provide real justice for the Toms River community and our natural resources. No public participation hearings were hosted as part of these settlement discussions, and little-to-no scientific data was released to substantiate the safety of these plans. How could the public submit their informed input on the record without adequate time and information?
We demand a transparent record and full engagement of the community along with the following remedies:
- The NJDEP should make all information related to the science and history of the former Ciba-Geigy site easily accessible to the public (we recommend housing it in the Ocean County Library)
- The NJDEP should host a public comments period that allows adequate time for citizens and local leaders to get their voices on the record and follow-up with official agency responses
- The NJDEP should extend the public comments period allowing for time after #1 and 2 listed above
- If there is to be a public nature center developed on-site, it should include a truth-telling exhibit that honors the families affected by this tragedy.
Now more than ever, we need to come together to demand justice for our community.
The December 2022 Settlement Proposal:
On December 5, 2022, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced the Natural Resource Damages (NRD) settlement between BASF and the DEP for a Superfund site in Toms River, NJ. At that time, the public was given 30-days to comment by January 6. BASF Corporation (BASF) is a NJ corporation and is the successor to the former Ciba-Geigy. BASF is the settling party to this Natural Resource Damages Settlement Agreement (“Settlement Agreement”).
The discharges that are the subject of this Settlement Agreement occurred at the site of the former Ciba-Geigy Corporation manufacturing facility, also known as the Ciba Geigy Superfund Site, 277 Oak Ridge Parkway, Toms River Township, Ocean County, New Jersey.
The proposal calls for a 1,000-acre conservation easement at the site with the current landowner retaining 255 acres for redevelopment. The conserved area would be used for “passive recreation”. The proposed settlement will:
- arrange for the preservation of approximately 1000 acres of the property and
- implement on approximately 375 acres of those 1,000 acres certain ecological uplift restoration projects. The preservation acreage provides groundwater recharge, which together with the restoration projects, will offset and compensate for the injuries to natural resources addressed in this Settlement Agreement
The NJDEP’s December 5th press release and settlement agreement can be accessed in full below:
- Toms River: A Story of Science and Salvation book by Dan Fagin
- Reuter’s article that highlights concern about how conservation easements could be used as loopholes to skirt full obligations for remediation
- Background on Natural Resource Damages (NRD) settlements
In the News:
- Jersey Shore Online, February 7, 2023: “For Ocean County Residents, Ciba’s Scars Run Deep” (Access PDF Here)
- Asbury Park Press, February 1, 2023: “Public comment period extended for Toms River NJ Superfund site” (Access PDF Here)
- NJ Spotlight News, January 31, 2023: “DEP settlement on Ciba-Geigy site unfair to Toms River” (Access PDF Here)
- Philadelphia Inquirer, January 27, 2023: “N.J. Shore town where child cancer rose blasts deal over polluted site” (Access PDF Here)
- NJ Spotlight News, January 26, 2023: “New Jerseyans criticize Ciba-Geigy settlement proposal” (Access PDF Here)
- Asbury Park Press, January 18th, 2023: “Polluted water under Toms River NJ site will take decades to clean” (Access PDF Here)
- Asbury Park Press, January 13, 2023: “Toms River mayor, council urge residents to give input on Ciba Superfund site settlement” (Access PDF Here)
- NJ Patch Toms River, January 12, 2023: “Speak Out On Ciba-Geigy Proposal At Meeting, Toms River Council Urges” (Access PDF Here)
- Asbury Park Press, January 11, 2023: “Unhappy with NJ Deal for Ciba Superfund pollution site? Speak out in Toms River” (Access PDF Here)
- Jersey Shore Online, January 9, 2023: “Lawmakers Criticize Ciba Deal” (Access PDF Here)
- NJ Spotlight News, December 29, 2023: “Unease in Toms River over settlement to turn Superfund site into a park” (Access PDF Here)
- Asbury Park Press, December 6, 2022: “NJ announces possible settlement over Toms River’s former Ciba-Geigy chemical site” (Access PDF Here)
- NJ Spotlight News, December 9, 2023: “NJ’s plan to transform polluted Toms River site” (Access PDF Here)
- The Patch, December 7, 2022: “Ciba-Geigy Settlement Can’t Overlook Cancer Cluster: Toms River Mayor” (Access PDF Here)
- Asbury Park Press, April 12, 2018: “Toms River Ciba-Geigy Superfund site will take decades to clean” (Access PDF Here)
- Asbury Park Press, August 18, 2018 – “Toms River cancer cluster: Will environmental rollbacks bring back ‘toxic’ town?” (Access PDF Here)