Cornell-Dubilier Draft Restoration Plan – LRWP’s Comments

The natural resource Trustees for the Cornell-Dubilier Electronics Superfund Site are considering a series of projects to restore and protect wildlife habitat and water quality and increase recreation opportunities in the Raritan River Watershed, as outlined in a Draft Restoration Plan and Environmental Assessment found at: https://www.cerc.usgs.gov/orda_docs/DocHandler.ashx?task=get&ID=6394

The Cornell-Dubilier Electronics Superfund Site originated from a 26-acre former electronic components manufacturing facility in South Plainfield, New Jersey. PCBs and other hazardous substances released from the site contaminated soils and groundwater, as well as the surface water, soils, and sediments of adjacent creeks, including Bound Brook, a tributary to the Raritan River. Fish and wildlife that rely upon these habitats were injured due to the release of these hazardous substances. Through various court proceedings and settlements, the Trustees recovered damages for injuries to natural resources; funds will be used to implement selected ecological and recreational restoration projects in the Raritan River watershed.

Proposed restoration projects are evaluated in the Draft Restoration Plan and Environmental Assessment. Proposed projects include dam removal, fish passage improvements, riparian restoration, mussel restoration, trash traps, various river access and recreational use projects, outreach / education, and “green” stormwater management. The draft plan identifies 11 Tier I projects and 9 Tier II projects. Tier I projects will take priority for funding; Tier II projects may be funded if residual funds are available, until all settlement funds are exhausted.

What follows is the Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership’s comments on the Cornell Dubilier Trustees prioritized ranking of projects.

March 10, 2021

Dear Cornell Dubilier Trustees –

On behalf of the Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership Board of Directors, please find below our comments on the Draft Restoration Plan / Environmental Assessment to address natural resources injured or lost due to releases of hazardous substances at and from the Cornell-Dubilier Site in Bound Brook, New Jersey.

While the LRWP Board commends Trustees’ commitment to improving habitat connectivity throughout the Raritan Basin, we are concerned with the Boards’ limited attention to those areas at nexus to release of hazardous substances by Cornell-Dubilier. In fact, Trustees’ proposed Tier 1 prioritization includes only one (1) project proposal that might be considered even nominally “downstream” of the release site.

As you know, the areas downstream of the Cornell-Dubilier site are characterized by significant Environmental Justice concerns. We believe that the human population, and the environmental resources disproportionately affected in terms of adverse human health and environmental effects of the hazardous substance release, must receive remediation dollars proportionate to the harm done to them. To do otherwise would be to continue to perpetuate environmental injustices in a region where our most vulnerable peoples and landscapes are repeatedly ignored. As such, the LRWP encourages the Trustees to reconsider its prioritization and increase rankings for two projects at nexus to damages: 1) South River Tidal Marsh Restoration; and 2) Bridge Over Delaware & Raritan Canal Spillway. These projects, both downstream from the Cornell Dubilier site, hold significant potential to address both natural resources enhancement and Environmental Justice concerns.

With respect to the South River Tidal Marsh Restoration Project, Trustees have mischaracterized the nexus to injury, scale of benefit, site ownership availability, climate change benefits, and multiple benefits to natural resources of this project. Please find attached a conceptual design map of the specific project site, and note that the project site characterized in our map is significantly smaller than the full South River Ecosystem discussed in your report. To fail to prioritize this project is an opportunity missed to specifically address restoration of native plants, improve access for an Environmental Justice Overburdened Community (per N.J.S.A. 13:1D-157), and build on on-going resilience work in the South River/Washington Canal – work which is currently supported by funding secured through the National Fish and Wildlife Foundations Five Star and Urban Waters Restoration Program.

With respect to the Bridge Over Delaware & Raritan Canal Spillway (the “Missing Link Bridge”), Trustees have an opportunity to advance the interests of another EJ Overburdened Community (New Brunswick). It is long past time to remediate the racist effects of engineering and planning decisions made that established the spillway, thus severing the relationship between New Brunswick residents and the regional D&R Canal walking path. Existence of a spillway at this location essentially bars City of New Brunswick residents from the health benefits of the important public utility of the D&R Canal.

I would welcome the opportunity to discuss the very significant natural resource enhancement and recreational access needs of the areas below the Cornell Dubilier release site with you in more detail: hfenyk@lowerraritanwatershed.org or #908.349.0281.

Sincerely,

Heather Fenyk, Ph.D., AICP/PP

Board President

Attachment: South River Concept Plan

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *