The ongoing nightmare of Chambers Works
Most people probably know that the DuPont Company (formally E. I. duPont de Nemours & Co.), at the New Jersey end of the Delaware Memorial Bridge, at its Chambers Works site (DuPont Company Chambers Works website) , operates one of largest hazardous waste facilities in the US.
Essentially it’s made up of a hazardous waste landfill (dump) and a wastewater treatment plant discharging into the Delaware River.
Nasty industrial waste from all over the US, and sometimes from overseas, comes to South Jersey to be "treated" and then dumped, either on land or into the river. DuPont calls it "Secure Environmental Treatment." We call it a disgrace.
Operating since 1917, or earlier, Chambers Works is one of the nightmare sites of the industrial, or post-industrial world, and infamous in the history of industrial medicine and disease.
At times over ten thousand people have worked there, but the workforce is now only a fraction of that.
It is radioactively contaminated, dating from the days of the World War II Manhattan Project which made the first atomic bombs. It was a major site making lead compounds once generally used in gasoline, and many workers suffered from lead poisoning. Reportedly there is a "lake" of tetraethyl lead under the site. Large amounts of cancer-causing dyes and chemicals have been made and used there. "In 1980 it became known that 364 cases of bladder cancer had occurred in this one factory since its beginning." (The secret history of the war on cancer, Devra Lee Davis, page 97.)
On over a thousand acres adjoining the Delaware and Salem rivers, leaking dumpsites hold ugly secrets.
As Chambers Works contracted as an industrial site, DuPont made a business out of selling its no-longer-needed-internally waste treatment capacity. Thus, the "Secure Environmental Treatment." It’s an ironic role reversal. From its origins as an industrial site, into which went raw materials and out of which came commercial and military products–with the wastes and byproducts poured into the air, water, and land–Chambers Works has morphed into a site bringing in toxic wastes from a wide area, further concentrating harmful effects locally.
Green Delaware has been pointing out for many years that DuPont dumps millions of pounds per year of nasty wastes into the Delaware River, into waters of the State of Delaware. (The plant is in New Jersey but the end of the outfall pipe is in Delaware.)
Reports to government agencies show over thirty million pounds of toxic wastes were "legally" dumped into the Delaware River between 1996 and 2006. (These amounts are after "treatment".)
Green Delaware for many years has called on Delaware environmental officials to act to stop this polluting of Delaware waters. The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) has responded by conniving with DuPont to support two "DuPont Nature Centers," one in Wilmington and one in lower Delaware. These, of course, are intended to "greenwash" DuPont’s horrible record as a polluter of the Delaware River. Look at the pretty birds … don’t think about how few of them are left and why….
One of these is at the mouth of the Mispillion River and is "Owned and operated by the Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife," part of the DNREC. The DuPont Company, of course, has input into what is presented there.
The other, the "DuPont Environmental Education Center," is run by the "Delaware Nature Society," which Green Delaware has often criticized as essentially a DuPont subsidiary.
(Note that there is a bogus "Green Delaware" involved in events at these facilities.)
These "nature centers" are only one element of the campaign of misrepresentation and deception carried out by the biggest polluters of the Delaware River. They invest heavily in suborning the integrity of school curricula, scientific organizations, and "environmental" organizations.
To me, personally, the most offensive example is the so-called "Partnership for the Delaware Estuary," set up by state and federal regulators but controlled by the biggest river-polluters such as DuPont, PSEG, and the City of Philadelphia, but widely accepted by unknowing citizens and gullible reporters as a good-guy organization.
For details on what DuPont has been doing to the River see Alert 635: (2009):
- Millions of public dollars spent on "nature centers" to showcase polluter DuPont’s propaganda
- from 1996 to 2006, DuPont admitted dumping over 30 million pounds of toxic chemicals into the Delaware river from Chambers Works alone
- How does this impact the integrity of the DNREC?
Now, lets take a look at this recent action by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection:
There is a December 8, 2011 Press Release (DEP Agreement Requires DuPont to Pay $725,000 Fine, Implement Plan to Address Operational Issues at Chambers Works Facility ) and a 38 page Administrative Consent Order with gory details. Here are a few of those details:
- "Since January of calendar year 2000, the Department has recorded 220 incidents of spills, discharges and/or releases of hazardous wastes or hazardous substances (exclusive of air releases) occurring at the facility. … Many occurred as a result of faulty/inoperable pumps, leaking valves and gaskets, valves inadvertently left open, cracks in containment structures, and accidents." [page 2]
- "[DuPont] Constructed, installed, modified, or operated hazardous waste facility without submitting … permit application." [page 4, numerous similar.]
- "Failure of [DuPont’s] containment system to consist of material compatible with wastes stored or to have sufficient strength and thickness." [page 5]
- "Failure of facility operator to maintain or operate facility to minimize the possibility of a fire, explosion, or any unplanned … release of hazardous waste … which could threaten human health or the environment." [page 7, many more similar]
- "DuPont failed to determine if benzyl chloride residues were a hazardous waste … DuPont failed to properly empty … approximately 440 55-gallon containers containing benzyl chloride residues. These … were sent to Recycle, Inc. (South Plainfield, NJ), a drum washing facility, over a three year period from 2007-2010 posing an inhalation hazard to anyone who opened these containers and was exposed to the fumes…." [page 17-18]
- [again] "DuPont shipped approximately 440 drums … containing acutely hazardous waste residues of benzyl chloride over a three year period … without a manifest…. [page 18]
- "… DuPont is unable to provide specific details regarding eighty-six (86) tank trailers (analytical data, MSDS sheets, etc.), origin of the contents within the tank trailers (bills-of-lading, hazardous waste manifests, etc.) or ownership information regarding these tank trailers. Nine (9) rail cars contain various amounts of outdated, unsalable product, most of which has been stored in the cars for at least 10 years. Many of these trailers are damaged, non-functional, un-placarded, and/or unregistered …. Several trailers are 10-20 years past the D.O.T. required tank integrity test date." [page 19]
Page 47 summarizes the violations but doesn’t total them. I count 64.
And so on….
What should we make of all this?
The fines aren’t large enough to seriously influence DuPont, and there is no attempt to recover the profits made by the illegal actions.
The violations go back years, so obviously the regulators aren’t running enforcement programs that effectively track what’s happening in "real time."
Green Delaware was part of the fight to keep DuPont from "treating" VX poison gas residues at Chambers Works. That fight was successful–and supported by the DNREC, to its credit–but our view was, and is, that the whole operation needs to be shut down. We never got much response on that, but the need remains. The Delaware will, obviously, never be healthy with these toxins pouring into it.
How about asking Governor "one percenter" Markell and DNREC Secretary Collin O’Mara to shut down or rename the "DuPont Nature Center?" A new theme for the facility could focus on the thought that