EPA Adds the Lower Hackensack River to the Superfund National Priorities List
NEW YORK – Today, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Deputy Regional Administrator Walter Mugdan, Representative Donald Payne, Jr., Representative Josh Gottheimer, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) Commissioner Shawn M. LaTourette, the Hackensack Riverkeeper Captain Bill Sheehan and other officials joined together to announce that EPA is adding the Lower Hackensack River in Bergen and Hudson counties to the Superfund National Priorities List (NPL). The site had been proposed for the list in March of this year. Nationwide, EPA is adding to its NPL five sites and proposing to add two others that pose significant risk to people’s health and the environment.
"The inclusion of the Lower Hackensack River on the National Priorities List will unlock the federal tools and resources needed to return this precious waterway to the community," said Regional Administrator Lisa F. Garcia. "New Jersey's industrial past helped build this country, but the weight of that legacy has been unequally carried by overburdened and underserved communities. We are committed to restoring this natural resource and working with our state, local and community leaders to get the job done."
“I am glad to see that the EPA is taking steps to initiate the clean-up of the Lower Hackensack River, benefitting our communities, families, and environment,” said Senator Bob Menendez. “New Jersey has more Superfund sites than any other state in the nation, which is why I fought hard to ensure that the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act included not only $3.5 billion in additional appropriations for the program, but, along with the Inflation Reduction Act, also reinstated the Superfund Tax on polluting industries to provide the program with a steady revenue stream. A strong Superfund program is essential in transforming all communities impacted by toxic contamination.”
“As the state with the most Superfund sites in the nation, New Jersey has been harmed by legacy pollution and residents have had to endure the harmful effects of toxic air and toxic water,” said Senator Cory Booker. “With the Lower Hackensack River finally added to the Superfund National Priorities List, our state will receive new tools and resources to clean and restore one of our state’s treasured waterways. I am especially grateful to the advocates, organizations, and government officials who worked tirelessly to make this announcement a reality.”
“The EPA prioritizing the cleanup of our Lower Hackensack River here in North Jersey is terrific news. I have been leading federal efforts to restore the river from its current contaminated state because our communities deserve better,” said Congressman Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ-09). “I have worked closely with the EPA to ensure that the Lower Hackensack’s cleanup process be prioritized. I have also strongly supported the Murphy Administration’s efforts to hold up their end of the bargain in this endeavor. I’m grateful for the work of our partners on the federal, state, and local level to make this progress possible. Together we will restore the Lower Hackensack River to its former glory.”
“It is great to see the Lower Hackensack River added to the EPA’s Superfund National Priorities List,” said Rep. Donald M. Payne, Jr. “A few of my New Jersey House colleagues and I wrote a letter to the EPA in July 2021 to request the agency designate the river as a Superfund priority. This action shows the Biden Administration’s continued commitment to environmental protections and restorations. Now, New Jersey can get the funding and support necessary to clean up the Lower Hackensack River and create an environmental space that all residents can enjoy.”
“After years of fighting to clean up and protect our local waters, the Lower Hackensack River has now officially been included in the federal government’s Superfund clean-up program. As Co-Chair of the Problem Solvers Caucus, I fought hard to include additional investment in the Superfund Program in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill that I helped shape and pass. It makes significant investment in cleaning up Superfund sites, making it one of the largest investments in American history to address pollution in communities across the country. This will help protect our water, our wildlife, our air, our open spaces, and — most importantly — our children and families,” said Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5).
“The official Superfund designation for the Hackensack River is a critical milestone for the Garden State that will hasten the cleanup and restoration of one of our most precious natural resources,” said Shawn M. LaTourette, who requested the federal superfund listing immediately upon his confirmation as New Jersey Commissioner of Environmental Protection last year. “Governor Phil Murphy, Lt. Governor Sheila Oliver, and our Administration are committed to the swift assessment and cleanup of the Hackensack for all those who live, work and recreate in its watershed. We thank Administrator Regan, Regional Administrator Garcia, Congressmen Pascrell and Gottheimer, and the many EPA, county, local and nonprofit partners who have championed this river and made this moment possible. While we may just be at the beginning, there is abundant light at the end of this river.”
The Lower Hackensack River site, stretching approximately 18.75 river miles from the Oradell Dam to near the river mouth at Newark Bay, along with its associated wetlands and the surrounding area, has been a center of industrial activities for more than 200 years. As a result, decades of sewage and industrial discharges into the river and its tributaries have contaminated river sediments. Prior studies and investigations show that the river contains sediments contaminated with arsenic, lead, chromium, mercury, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon compounds (PAHs) and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).
The Hackensack River is part of the New York–New Jersey Harbor Estuary and is habitat to over 30 designated endangered or threatened species and home to over 8,400 acres of wetlands. It runs through residential, commercial, industrial and public areas. Due to the elevated contamination levels found in fish and crab throughout the Newark Bay Complex, including the tidal Hackensack River, NJDEP has placed multiple advisories on the river’s recreational and fishing activities.
There are thousands of contaminated sites across the country due to past practices of dumping, storing or discharging contamination indiscriminately. President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will accelerate EPA’s work to help communities clean up these contaminated sites with a $3.5 billion investment in the Superfund Remedial Program and reinstates the Superfund chemical excise taxes, making it one of the largest investments in American history to address legacy pollution. This historic investment strengthens EPA’s ability to tackle threats to human health and the environment. EPA has already set action in motion to clear the backlog of the 49 contaminated sites awaiting funding to start remedial action.
EPA proposes sites to the Superfund National Priorities List based on a scientific determination of risks to people and the environment, consistent with the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act and the National Oil and Hazardous Substances Pollution Contingency Plan. Before EPA adds a site to the Superfund National Priorities List, a site must meet EPA’s requirements and be proposed for addition to the list in the Federal Register, subject to a 60-day public comment period. EPA will add the site to the Superfund National Priorities List if it continues to meet the listing requirements after the public comment period closes and the agency has responded to any comments.
Thanks to Superfund cleanups, communities are now using previously blighted properties for a wide range of purposes, including retail businesses, office space, public parks, residences, warehouses, and solar power generation. As of 2021, EPA has collected economic data on 650 Superfund sites. At these sites, there are 10,230 businesses operating on these sites, 246,000 people employed, an estimated $18.6 billion in income earned by employees, and $65.8 billion in sales generated by businesses.
For information about Superfund and the Superfund National Priorities List, please visit: https://www.epa.gov/superfund.
For Federal Register notices and supporting documents for Superfund National Priorities List and proposed sites, please visit:
For additional information and site background, visit the Lower Hackensack River Superfund Site Profile Page.