Ocean County Mayors Demand More From Ciba Settlement

Ciba-Geigy has been closed for decades, but its legacy continues. (Photo courtesy Zach Kolas)

  TOMS RIVER – The Ocean County Mayors’ Association said that a settlement between the state and the owners of the Ciba Geigy property doesn’t go far enough to help with the health, economic, or environmental impacts of the site.

  Toms River officials said that the current owner, BASF, escaped from paying any monetary penalties because the State Department of Environmental Protection surrendered any claims for statutory natural resource damages.

  The mayors are asking for a number of concessions, including the creation of a depository at the Ocean County library system (hard copy and digital) for documents about the condition of the site, with all permits relating to discharges, reports of work completed on landfills, and monitoring info regarding the Toms River and nearby wetlands.

  They also want BASF to publish monitoring information on the status of the Toms River from the border of Manchester to the Barnegat Bay, and to continue to monitor it for the next three years.

  Additionally, they want a public information plan in place so that residents know what’s happening with the remediation, while also giving the public opportunities to become involved.

  Ciba-Geigy opened in 1952 and closed in 1990. It manufactured dyes and other chemicals, dumping the waste into the river and the ground. Many people attribute the area’s cancer cluster to its operation. It became an Environmental Protection Agency Superfund Site in 1983. The settlement with the State DEP will not impact the situation with the federal EPA.

  The former Ciba land is 1,255 acres between Route 37 and Oak Ridge Parkway, west of the Garden State Parkway. According to a settlement announced on December 5 by the DEP, about 1,000 acres would be preserved. Of this, approximately 790 acres will be maintained as open space and will include restoration projects. The remaining 210 acres will be set aside for pollinator habitat and solar energy production. There would be trails, a boardwalk, and an environmental education center. The project could break ground as soon as spring of 2023 and be open to the public in phases over the next five years.

  The portion that won’t be part of the preservation project is about 255 acres that are currently zoned as light industrial with an entrance onto Route 37.

  German company BASF assumed responsibility for the site in 2010 through corporate acquisitions. When BASF acquired Ciba, the property was undergoing remediation efforts such as excavation and capping of contaminated areas and the pumping and treatment of contaminated groundwater, the DEP said.

Public Interaction

  The DEP will be hosting a public meeting about the settlement in Toms River High School North’s auditorium at 6 p.m. on March 13.

  Comments about the settlement may be submitted electronically at onrr@dep.nj.gov. Comments will be accepted until April 5.

  There is a way to comment on the settlement on the DEP’s site as well. The proposed settlement agreement between BASF and the DEP can be found here: nj.gov/dep/nrr/settlements/index.html

  For more information on the site and the EPA’s remediation process, visit cumulis.epa.gov/supercpad/SiteProfiles/index.cfm?fuseaction=second.cleanup&id=0200078#Status