The Forgotten Town: Every Time Manville, NJ Floods Residents Are Subjected to Poisonous Chemicals

Manville, NJ was once a bustling town. It was the headquarters of Johns Manville and it was the place to live, work and play. Little did the residents know, the very company that was making them a thriving town was also killing them. Johns Manville closed in the 1980’s and was found guilty of making people sick because of asbestosis. To make matters worse, Johns Manville knew asbestos was bad for humans but did not tell anyone.

Fast forward thirty years and Manville is starting to bounce back from their main workforce leaving town, but they have been plagued with a new problem: constant flooding. Whereas other surrounding cities including Green Brook and Bound Brook were approved by the Army Corp. of Engineers to receive flood mitigation which included flood walls, water tight gates and river modification, the Army Corp. of Engineers said Manville did not meet the requirements to get their help.

Manville is one flood away from being broke, and a little known fact is every time it floods, it is speculated the residents are once again getting poisoned. Ironically, this time, it is also from factories and corporations that have since closed but left supersites and cesspools that line the Raritan River. When it floods at times the Raritan River breaches cesspools, thus causing the contaminants to float down the river, through people’s houses, stores and cars.

After the last hurricane, Sandy, the Wall Street Journal wrote a story titled “Sandy Stirs Toxic-Site Worry.”  The Wall Street Journal stated there are actually 45 Superfund toxic-waste sites within a half-mile of coastal areas which are vulnerable to storm surges. It is also noted Superfund sites are “generally considered the most hazardous toxic-waste sites in the country.”

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Out of all the Superfund sites nationwide, New Jersey has the most, 112 in total.

superstorm sandy superfund 2All of this seems very similar to the issues residents are having in Flint, Michigan, so why are government officials in New Jersey saying Manville does not meet the criteria to get assistance from the Army Corp of Engineers? In the past, a human’s life does not come with a price tag.

The mayor of Manville, Richard Onderko, had the following to say about the flooding issue:

“It is evident that the Army Corp of Engineers missed the bigger picture here in Manville. The flooding problem that Manville often encounters is a regional problem and not one isolated to the Borough of Manville’s two square miles.  This is a serious quality of life and public safety issue for the region and it must be addressed.  In my opinion it is a man-made problem which requires a man-made solution.”

Onderko also pointed out:

“The United States of America ironically gives billions of dollars of foreign aid away and gets nothing in return yet our request for help is questioned for its benefits.”

Groups such as the Sierra Club and the Raritan Riverkeepers of New Jersey have also been trying to bring focus to the contamination problem of the Raritan River. Most experts say they would not even stick their feet in the water let alone swim or fish in it. This is the same water that is flooding the town.

In a video put out by NJTV, entitled Rescuing the River: The Raritan, environmentalists and mayors alike have suggested the contamination of the Raritan River have led to birth defects, cancer and other diseases due to the abundance of Super Sites that line the river.

Some of the chemicals contaminating the river are: lead, pesticides, radiological waste and numerous chemicals.

Upon looking up the Super Site that would affect Manville the most when it floods, American Cyanide, this is just some of the list of hazardous chemicals at the site and in the cesspools:

Cloraphenol, acetone, arsenic, chloride, cobalt, copper, ethyl ether, lead, mercury and nickel.

That is just the short list. If you print it all out, it is sixteen pages worth of contaminants.

According to the Sierra Club, after Hurricane Irene in 2011, the lagoons at American Cyanide were flooded and seeping 20,000 times regulatory levels all year into the Raritan River. That data was compiled by the EPA who tested the river.

Jeff Tittel, executive director of the Sierra Club stated after Irene:

“The EPA, instead of taking samples, should be taking remedial action to clean up this toxic mess. Pollution from this site have impacted the river in the past and is doing it again. “

Below are the flood waters breaching the cesspools. Recent floods have included Hurricanes Irene [2011], Sandy [2012], Floyd [1999] and a 2007 Nor’easter.

Manville 1

Manville 2

Former mayor of the Franklin, the town next to Manville, Brian Levine, told Eagle Rising he was not even aware this was happening. This is mainly because the state and federal government have been trying to down play the situation and not let the residents know. Sadly to say, a lot of the residents are used to the Super Sites being there they forget about the dangers they bring or do not understand how harmful they are.

We also reached out to New Jersey Senator Cory Booker (D) to find out what he was doing to address the problem … and he did not comment.

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