Founded in 1989 by Executive Director Robert Spiegel, Edison Wetlands Association (EWA) is New Jersey’s leader in toxic waste site cleanups, restoration and conservation of environmental resources. EWA works in several critical areas cleaning and restoring the longest river solely in New Jersey, the Raritan River, preserving Central New Jersey’s remaining natural areas, including the Dismal Swamp Conservation Area (DSCA), and helping to empower communities that suffer negative impacts from environmental injustices and equities.
Over the past 25 years, EWA has successfully developed innovative strategies that have led to the cleanups and restoration of challenging, high-profile sites such as the “Green Rabbit” former Chemical Insecticide Corporation Superfund Site in Edison, once an agent orange soaked toxic wasteland and now a fully remediated Green Acres public park. EWA’s Environmental Justice Program directly empowers marginalized communities such as the Ramapough-Lenape Native Americans, who live on a Superfund Site in Ringwood.
EWA also serves as a central New Jersey conservation leader, successfully managing a range of innovative projects that preserve and restore open space. This includes “Brownfields-to-Greenfields” (B2G) projects in partnership with municipalities and green business leaders, which balance economic factors that lead to environmental redevelopments. Spiegel manages EWA’s fee-based Environmental Education Program at EWA’s Triple C Ranch. EWA reached over 45,000 readers monthly with its conservational news blogs- WildNewJersey.tv and NewGreenMedia.tv- offering mainstream environmental news as well as original stories and videos.
EWA’s Re-Purpose New Jersey Program continues to expand this economic-environmental initiative, partnering with municipalities to recycle and re-purpose clothing and other textiles, saving thousands of taxpayer dollars while greatly reducing waste in landfills.
THE GREEN RABBIT BEGINNING
The Chemical Insecticide Corporation (CIC) Superfund Site was the first major issue that the Edison Wetlands Association undertook. After the owners went bankrupt they abandoned the CIC site. Virtually no cleanup activities had or were taking place, and additionally, off-site contamination was more than visible on nearby properties and in an adjacent stream. EWA’s director Robert Spiegel was asked to look at a site where “green rabbits” lived.
Indeed, the Chemical Insecticide Corporation Superfund Site was so toxic that chemicals had begun to turn to fur on rabbits a very unnatural shade of green. Green and yellow ooze was observed on and off-site as well. Several local residents had developed health problems- cancers and diseases, with a suspected link to the nearby contamination. When contacted regarding the contamination, the U.S. EPA merely posted signs warning of the hazardous waste site.
HISTORY OF THE SUPERFUND
New Jersey leads the nation with the most Superfund and hazardous waste sites—with 116 Federal Superfund sites, and over 18,000 total hazardous waste sites. With a long history as an industrial center, New Jersey continues to pay the price of its industrial past. That unfortunate legacy makes an even greater impact because of how densely populated New Jersey is.
Following the Love Canal incidents of the 1970s, America realized that there were thousands of other communities also built on unknown toxins. The “Superfund,” or the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), was enacted by Congress on December 11, 1980. This law created a tax on the chemical and petroleum industries and provided broad federal authority to respond directly to releases of hazardous substances that could endanger public health or the environment.
As the sheer magnitude of the nation’s hazardous waste problem became apparent, states, counties and local communities found they lacked the ability to address the great complexity, size and costs of hazardous waste remediation. The Federal Superfund program was the answer.
After many successes—and with 1 in 4 Americans living within four miles of a Superfund site—the unthinkable happened. The Superfund was allowed to expire. With hundreds of Superfund sites on hold and the remaining contaminated and dangerous, EWA Executive Director Robert Spiegel testified before the U.S. Senate on the importance of re-authorizing the Superfund. Click here to to see how you can help keep the Superfund active.
Thus began the Superfund process. As many hazardous waste sites began to be addressed and cleaned by the property owners, it became clear that there would be many sites that would need government intervention and assistance. Some sites were abandoned – with no possible way of finding funders for the cleanup. The Superfund Trust Fund aided ‘orphan’ sites that were listed on the US EPA’s National Priorities list.