TOMS RIVER-The old Ciba-Geigy pipeline which dumped thousands of pounds of chemicals and treated water off the sand of Ortley Beach until 1991 could be the source of the latest round of wells tested to have high concentrations of Trichloroethylene and Tetrachloroethylene (TCE & PCE). Those chemicals are the same as those found to have caused the 1980’s and 1990’s cancer cluster that claimed the lives of children in Toms River during that period.
Toms River officials have been relatively low-key on this latest contamination news, posting, a quick press release on the town’s website.
The contaminated area lies just south the old Ciba Geigy pipeline, which in 1984 burst open at the intersection of Vaughn Avenue and Bay Avenue. The old pipeline ran from the Ciba-Giegy chemical plant on Route 37, along Route 571 and Bay Avenue, across the Barnegat Bay and through the barrier island where it emptied out just a few feet off the beach in Ortley Beach for decades.
Toms River Township recently was ordered to pay BASF, the company which purchased Ciba-Geigy and the Toms River superfund site for $5 billion dollars. Toms River officials have not yet investigated or discussed whether this new plume of contaminated wells is connected to the operations of Ciba-Geigy.
Toms River Mayor Mo Hill has been relatively silent on the court order and the new contaminated wells. That could be in part to plans on record with the township to develop portions of the Ciba-Geigy property. The last thing Hill needs is another Ciba-Geigy related water pollution incident, which could sink the master plan he approved that allowed for the redevelopment of portions of land adjacent to the superfund site.
“As previously mentioned, of the initial 41 properties contacted regarding possible PCE and or TCE contamination,” the township said in a statement. “The five wells that tested positive are located in two separate and unique areas with multiple surrounding wells that did not test positive for these compounds. However, in an abundance of caution, the NJDEP is expanding their well testing around the second group.”
The homeowners are expected to pay for the testing of their wells and according to Councilwoman Maria Maruca, that testing could cost residents up to $600 per home. There are over 400 private wells still operating in Toms River according to the township.
“While it is always recommended that residents have their wells tested at least annually, any resident that is concerned, and does not receive a letter within the next two weeks for the free testing can always have their well-tested privately,” the township said.
If a well does test positive for these compounds, a second confirming test will be ordered. During that time between the second test, residents are encouraged to drink bottled water and keep receipts. If the second test comes back positive, the NJDEP will reimburse the cost for the drinking water and will then offer a POET system.