Thousands of chemicals, many of them toxic, are released into New Jersey’s environment each year by industries and businesses that use them as part of their operations. Through the Toxic Release Inventory, the federal Environmental Protection Agency tracks the management of toxic chemicals that may pose a threat to human health and the environment.
In New Jersey, 10.9 million pounds of these chemicals were released by 383 facilities required to report under the so-called “right-to-know law” in 2013—the most recent year for which full data is available. Nearly half of those releases (5.4 million pounds) were discharges into water. In addition, 306 million pounds of waste were generated by these facilities.
The biggest generators by specific industry for the toxic releases were petroleum refineries, followed by chemical manufacturing, hazardous waste treatment and disposal facilities, fossil fuel-fired power plants and, finally, iron and steel mills. New Jersey ranks 17th out of 56 states/territories nationwide based on total releases per square mile.
As in the past, nitrate compounds led the toxic releases in New Jersey with 5.3 million pounds, followed by lead compounds with 1.2 million pounds, according to the Right-to-Know Network, an organization that provides numerous databases and resources on the environment. Both compounds can cause health problems for infants and young children.
Following is a list of New Jersey towns (and one military base) where facilities with the state’s largest on-site releases are located. On-site releases include air releases, surface water discharges, land releases, recycling, and material used for energy recovery (burned in a furnace or boiler to generate heat or energy for use at the facility).
The Union County city led the state in the amount of toxic releases with 2.7 million pounds. It is home to the ConocoPhillips Bayway Refinery, which accounted for 2.5 million pounds of those releases, according to data compiled by the Right-to-Know Network.
This unincorporated community within Pennsville Township in Salem County came in second with 2.5 million pounds of releases, virtually all of which came from the massive DuPont Chambers Works manufacturing plant and the wastewater treatment facility on its grounds.
Another community on the east bank of the Delaware River in Salem County, Paulsboro had 928,000 pounds of toxic releases. The Paulsboro Refinery accounted for its place on the top 10 list.
The Warren County community had nearly a quarter of a million pounds of toxic releases (240,337 pounds). Its two facilities reporting significant releases of toxics were the former Atlantic States Cast Iron Pipe Co. (now McWane Ductile New Jersey) and Avantor Performance Materials.
5. McGuire Air Force Base
This sprawling Department of Defense facility in Burlington County released 150,000 pounds of chemicals in 2013. There is a federal Superfund toxic-waste site on the base where PCBs, jet fuel and other toxic compounds have been found.
A small community, also in Warren County, Belivdere had 140,451 pounds of toxic releases in 2013, with most coming from DSM Nutritional Products LLC, which makes products for the feed, food, pharmaceutical, and personal care industries.
There were 90,536 pounds of releases in this Cumberland County community founded as an agricultural colony in 1898. It is home to National Refrigerants Inc., a manufacturer of refrigerants, chemicals, and lubricants.
Located along the Delaware River in Gloucester County, this town had 56,227 pounds of toxics released. The source was Ferro Corp, a manufacturer of flame retardants and organic industrial chemicals.
9. Beesley Point
Located in northern Cape May County, this community had 49,055 pounds of reportable toxic chemicals released in 2013. The B.L. England Power Plant is located here.
There were 45,347 pounds of toxics released in this Gloucester County community, home of Paris-based Saint-Gobain PPL, a maker of polymer solutions.