The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) recently entered into a significant agreement concerning the Ciba Geigy chemical plant and federal superfund site in Toms River.
The Ciba Geigy plant has been associated with one of the most alarming cancer clusters in U.S. history, which led to numerous deaths and cancer cases – particularly among children – due to contaminated drinking water. As the implications of this deal continue to reverberate, the balancing act between environmental conservation and development interests remains at the forefront of local discussions.
The agreement, which has drawn a mix of praise and criticism, will secure the preservation of 1,050 acres of land at the historically contaminated site. The landmark decision comes after a lengthy process of negotiation between state authorities and BASF, the current owner of the former Ciba Geigy plant. In addition to the conservation area, the deal also includes a provision allowing for the development of 200 acres of land.
However, Toms River Councilman Dan Rodrick, the heavy favorite to win the mayoral election in November, was quick to express his disapproval of the deal, characterizing it as an arrangement that occurred without the consultation of township officials and the involvement of Germany-based BASF.
“The NJDEP should be prioritizing the interests of the people of Toms River, yet it appears their allegiance lies with BASF,” Rodrick commented. “Funded by the taxpayers of New Jersey, the DEP’s alignment with a multinational corporation like BASF raises concerns about crony capitalism. This regrettable display further erodes public trust in government. I stand in solidarity with Save Barnegat Bay’s leadership in demanding accountability from BASF.”
Rodrick is advocating for the preservation of the entire site as a wildlife management area, rather than allotting 200 acres for a small village, as proposed by the agreement. His vision extends to securing the 200 acres for permanent conservation under township jurisdiction.
Township officials are widely expected to resort to legal measures, likely filing a lawsuit against both the NJDEP and BASF over the settlement.