Berry’s Creek Study Area
Bergen County, NJ
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Your Community Involvement Coordinator
Sophia Kelley – (212) 637-3670
The Berry’s Creek Study Area (BCSA), located in Bergen County, New Jersey encompasses the 6.5-mile-long Berry’s Creek, its tributaries, the Berry’s Creek canal, and adjacent wetlands. Mercury concentrations in Berry’s Creek sediments are greater than what is considered to be protective of wildlife. The area is highly industrialized and has a low population density, but zoning is a mix of industrial, commercial, residential, recreational, redevelopment, and marshland preservation. The creek meanders through the New Jersey Meadowlands and the municipalities of Teterboro, Moonachie, Wood-Ridge, Carlstadt, Rutherford, Lyndhurst, and East Rutherford before discharging into the Hackensack River.
Evaluation of the BCSA is highly complex, with several potential sources of contamination and numerous contaminants that may interrelate and contribute to the overall risk from exposure. Industrial development in the area began as early as the late nineteenth century and included the manufacture of disposable medical supplies, pharmaceutical products, and organic chemicals. Historically, the area has been associated with mercury contamination from the 40-acre Ventron/Velsicol Superfund site, which has migrated to Berry’s Creek. Two other Superfund sites are located in the BCSA: the Universal Oil Products site and the Scientific Chemical Processing site. Currently, over 14,000 businesses operate within the area and manufacturing is still the dominant industry.
Beyond industry, the BCSA has several chemical and nonchemical sources of impairment; they include untreated sewage, urban runoff, sewer discharges, tide gates that alter the creek’s flow, and extensive infrastructure (including several large roads, rail lines and the Meadowlands Sports Complex). Over time, six sewage treatment plants and at least three municipal landfills containing industrial and municipal waste have discharged pollutants into Berry’s Creek. Other agencies and organizations, such as the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, also are addressing contamination within the study area, including cleanup of several state-listed hazardous waste sites. Portions of Berry’s Creek have been used for fishing and crabbing, but advisories for blue crab and several fish species on the waterways within the Newark Bay Complex, including Berry’s Creek, currently limit those activities.
Given the area’s complexity, assessment of contamination requires intensive sampling and analysis of several pollutants. Ninety-eight parties potentially responsible for contamination in Berry's Creek (the Cooperating PRP Group) have agreed to conduct an investigation of contamination in Berry’s Creek and its surrounding waterways and wetlands. EPA is closely overseeing the work. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and other agencies (NJDEP), such as the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), also will review and comment on project documents. Following assessment, EPA will determine risks to human health and wildlife, examine potential cleanup alternatives, and present a proposed plan for the area.