From Dr. Mercola:
For decades, more than 100 companies allegedly dumped hazardous waste, including byproducts from the manufacture of Agent Orange, into New Jersey’s Passaic River. Today it is thought to be one of the most contaminated waterways in the U.S.
The New Jersey Department of Health and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection warn residents not to eat any seafood harvested from the river, as it may lead to health problems like cancer, liver damage, birth defects and reproductive issues.1
Yet, some residents rely on fish from the river, eating them regularly despite their accumulated toxins. About half of the companies being held liable for the pollution have now created a so-called “fish exchange” program so that residents can turn in their toxic catch for frozen fish from Costco.
Polluters Attempt to Pacify Residents With Frozen Fish
New Jersey residents may be understandably upset that they can no longer consume fish from the Passaic River.
And so, perhaps in an effort to curb impending litigation, 54 of the companies that may be liable for polluting the river have formed “The Lower Passaic River Study Area Cooperating Parties Group,” and paid Rutgers University more than $1 million to create a fish exchange program.2
The university is raising farm-raised tilapia in a greenhouse. Residents can then bring in their toxic catches from the Passaic (on Saturdays between June and October) and exchange them, pound for pound, for the farm-raised fish.
None of the tilapia were of harvest size at the start of the program, however, so for 2015 anyone who brought in fish received bags of frozen tilapia purchased from Costco. The program has not had a big turnout, exchanging only 170 fish from June 2015 to January 2016.
Then there’s the issue of what to do with them. Right now, the collected fish are sitting in a freezer while it’s debated how to properly dispose of them. Incinerating them would release the toxins into the air; sending them to a landfill may ultimately add contaminants to soil and groundwater.
Fish Exchange Called a Distraction Tactic
The fish exchange has been called a distraction tactic: a way for the polluting companies to skirt responsibility and avoid cleaning up the river. Walter Mugdan with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) told WNYC:
“It’s not something that we’ve proposed nor is it something that we endorsed It’s certainly no substitute for cleaning up the river and getting the fish to be cleaned in the first place.”
WNYC reported that the EPA has proposed a $1.7-billion cleanup of the river, which would involve removing 2 feet of toxic sediment from the river bottom and replacing it with clean rocks. Even with the best remediation, it’s likely to be decades (or more) before fish from the river is safe to eat again.
Polluted Fish Is More the Norm Than the Exception
Although the Passaic River contamination is an extreme case, it exemplifies what has happened to many natural fish sources