New Jersey Commissioner of Environmental Protection Shawn LaTourette announced a proposal to restore the natural resources damaged by decades of industrial pollution and illegal dumping at the Ciba-Geigy Superfund Site in Toms River through a negotiated settlement with BASF Corporation, the successor to the Ciba-Geigy Chemical Corporation.
The proposed settlement is the largest single-site preservation agreement achieved through the Department of Environmental Protection’s Natural Resource Damages program.
Under the proposal, approximately 1,000 acres would be permanently preserved for the benefit of the public, with hundreds of acres to be restored through a variety of ecological improvement projects.
When complete, the site will feature public access, passive recreation, and natural resource interpretative and educational opportunities.
The ecological restoration would include the creation of a freshwater wetlands complex, restoration of riparian areas, flood plain and wetland enhancements, creation of upland grasslands and pollinator habitat, public access trails and boardwalks for wildlife viewing and passive recreation.
In addition to walking, running, hiking, opportunities for the public, an environmental education center will be constructed to provide natural resource interpretation programs for the public. The project could break ground in the spring of 2023, become open to the public in phases, and be complete within the next five years.
Over the next 30 days, the DEP will accept public comment on the proposal published today in the New Jersey Register.
The former Ciba-Geigy chemical plant began manufacturing industrial dyes, pigments, resins, and plastics in 1952.
In 1983, the site was listed on the National Priorities List as an EPA-lead Superfund Site due to significant contamination of soil and groundwater resulting from improper chemical waste disposal. Plant operations ceased in 1990.
The proposed settlement agreement would permanently preserve and protect approximately 1,000 acres of the site in Toms River from future development to offset the groundwater injury tough groundwater aquifer recharge.
Of the 1,000 acres to be preserved, approximately 790 acres will be maintained as open space and will include restoration projects for ecological uplift, habitat enhancement, and public access.
Restoration projects within this space will incorporate hiking trails, birdwatching platforms and blinds, and an educational center among others for public enjoyment.
The remaining 210 acres will be set aside for pollinator habitat and solar energy production.