Order amid Chaos

A History of Pollution

For many years Ciba Geigy polluted the Toms River (a River that flows into Barnegat Bay) with waste from its dye manufacturing facility. By the mid-1960s, people living in Toms River noticed that their drinking water had a medicinal taste and smell. Ciba Geigy did some tests that showed that the Holly Plant well field, the single largest source of drinking water in Toms River, was polluted with river water containing Toms River Water System then dye wastes and other chemicals. Neither Ciba nor the Toms River Water Company disclosed this to the public, the health department, or any public official. Instead, they quietly decided to treat the Holly Plant water with other chemicals in order to eliminate the taste and smell. Meanwhile, Ciba Geigy was still discharging tons of pollutants into the river. We don't know whether toxic chemicals remained in Holly Plant drinking water after 1967, since no Holly Plant well was sampled for dye wastes again until 1996. We do know that at least some of the polluted wells remained in use for public consumption until 1983.

Over 25 years ago, a waste hauler illegally dumped thousands of 55-gallon drums of chemical waste in our town of Dover Township (Toms River) New Jersey. The chemicals were from the manufacturing of plastics produced in another area of New Jersey, but disposed here. First, he dumped approximately 2000 drums of this toxic chemical waste in our clean landfill. This went on until an explosion and fire occurred, at which time they stopped accepting the waste. The hauler then went to a nearby farm and requested permission to store the waste drums there. He then proceeded to empty the drums onto the farmland and buried any damaged ones. When the farmer found out what he was doing, he asked him to clean up his mess and move out. The hauler refused and later was arrested. Private wells in the area became undrinkable and potable water had to be brought in, until public water could be hooked up. This farm became known as the Reich Farm.

Beginning in 1970, Toms River Water Company (TRWC ) began to develop the Parkway well field, which went on to become an even larger source of drinking water for the community than Holly Plant. In 1971, thousands of drums from a Union Carbide chemical plant were found dumped at Reich Farm about one mile north of the Parkway well field. These wastes Reich Farm included hundreds, if not thousands, of different types of chemicals. Instead of trying to intercept the flow of chemicals to the Parkway well field, the EPA and Union Carbide decided to use the Parkway wells themselves to capture the pollution. They chose to clean up the pollution after it reached these wells. The cleanup method they chose was air stripping. This only cleaned out some of the chemicals -- volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Many other pollutants, such as semi-volatiles, which could not be precisely identified (TlCs or tentatively identified compounds) were never tested for specifically in the water.