Despite assurances from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that it had stopped a discharge from a Delaware River dredge disposal facility in Salem County, DEP inspectors today found water flowing uncontrolled from the site, raising the department’s concerns about potential harmful impacts from contaminants on ecologically sensitive wetlands.
“This finding is especially troubling because the Army Corps of Engineers represented both to DEP and in court documents that they stopped the flow of water shortly after it started last month,” Commissioner Bob Martin said. “At this point, we do not know how long or how frequently this water has been flowing off the site and into New Jersey wetlands or what environmental impacts this situation is having. We demand immediate answers and an action plan from the Army Corps. They must stop this discharge and prevent it from happening again.”
The disposal facility is adjacent to the Killcohook National Wildlife Refuge and its ecologically sensitive tidal wetlands.
On Thursday, Governor Chris Christie and Commissioner Martin expressed outrage that the Army Corps had begun using a section of the Killcohook Confined Disposal Facility in New Jersey’s jurisdiction to dispose sediments dredged as part of the Army Corps’ Delaware River deepening project in disregard of a federal court order. The Corps began using the facility on Aug. 13 without informing the DEP.
This week, the Army Corps reported to the DEP and to a U.S. District Court judge that a dike at the facility broke, causing a discharge to wetlands on Aug. 30-31, but that the flow of water had been stopped.
The DEP sent staff from its office of Dredging and Sediment Technology to Killcohook today to assess the situation. They found water gushing through a weir box and into a piping system that drains into an unnamed stream. Water from the dredge disposal site had risen above the discharge pipe, completely covering it. A weir box is a structure used to control excessive water levels within an impounded area.
The staff further found that the Army Corps is not performing any contaminant monitoring of the discharge.
“These inspection results only elevate my concerns that contaminants, stirred up by the dredging process, may be flowing from this site and into ecologically sensitive wetlands or into the river itself,” Commissioner Martin said. “We are redoubling are efforts to get to the bottom of this situation, get it corrected and hold the Army Corps responsible.”
Because of a border quirk, a portion of the Killcohook facility technically lies within the state of Delaware. However, the section that the Army Corps began using last month is within New Jersey. A U.S. District Court judge previously ruled that the Army Corps could begin its deepening project in Delaware waters but limited disposal of sediments to that state.
The sediments that the Army Corps discharged to the New Jersey section of the Killcohook facility are from a heavily industrialized section of the river near the Delaware Memorial Bridge.