Interactive Map: Toxic Chemical Releases in NJ

The number of pounds of toxic chemicals released or disposed of in the air, water or on land in the counties in 2011 is shown in shades from lightest or lowest — 10,327 in Sussex — to darkest or highest — 5.8 million in Salem. Click on a county to see its data. The dots represent companies and other facilities that released chemicals. You can find details by facility, including a link to its detailed page on the EPA website, by clicking on a dot.

Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Toxic Release Inventory

New Jersey companies released fewer toxic chemicals in 2011 than they did a year earlier, although the 14.2 million pounds they pumped into the air, water, or landfills was still more than the total for 2009, according to the most recent U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Toxics Release Inventory.

As was true in 2010, the most often released chemicals in 2011 were nitrate compounds, although the amount companies reported dumping — 5.5 million pounds – dropped by about a quarter. Roughly all of the nitrates — which come from nitrogen-based fertilizer, sewage, and manure — flow into surface water. According to the Environmental Working Group, high nitrate levels in water can make it hard for an infant’s blood to carry oxygen, lead to kidney and spleen damage in adults, and can react with the body’s amino acids to form nitrosamines, which have been linked to cancer in test animal studies.

The second most-common chemical released was ammonia, which can irritate the skin, eyes, throat and lungs, and in large concentrations can result in blindness, lung damage, or death, according to the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.

New Jersey companies unloaded 87 different types of chemicals in 2011. Of those released on site, 8.7 million pounds went into surface water, 2.2 million pounds into the air, and about 200,000 pounds on land.

The total amount pumped out in 2011 was the second lowest, after 2009, in at least the past decade. Ten years earlier, companies discharged close to 24 million pounds. In 2010, the amount was more than 16 million pounds.

Click to enlarge.

In both 2011 an 2010, DuPont Chambers Works in Deepwater accounted for the largest amount of toxic releases in the state, with 5.5 million pounds of 62 different kinds of chemicals. That amounts to more than a third of all toxic discharges in the state.

According to the EPA, the 1,455-acre Chambers Works site began as a smokeless gunpowder plant in 1892. Through the early 1980s it produced dyes, Freon, and tetraethyl lead, along with radiological materials used to develop the atomic bomb. Today, DuPont only does chemical manufacturing at the site, which includes “several active waste-management areas,” including a landfill and wastewater treatment plant.

The presence of DuPont makes Salem the county with the most chemical releases in New Jersey. Union County ranks second, with 3.3 million releases. It is home to the ConocoPhillips Bayway Refinery in Linden, which ranked second among toxic companies for chemical releases — 2.9 million pounds of 31 chemicals, including benzene, lead and mercury compounds, and sulfuric acid.

Eight counties had less than 100,000 pounds of chemicals released in 2011.