Located at the end of our driveway are two massive chemical dumps.
Both landfills are directly on the New Jersey bank of the Delaware River, leaching chemicals into recreation and drinking water used by at least 40,000 people in river towns downstream: Frenchtown, Point Pleasant, Stockton, Lambertville and New Hope.
Crown Vantage Landfill located in Alexandria Township, Hunterdon County, New Jersey is the legacy of a paper mill — consumer packaging — that went out of business in Milford, New Jersey a few years ago.
The company abandoned their plant as it stood, leaving furniture, files, and food still in office refrigerators. Millions of dollars in unpaid back taxes owed to a town with a population of about 1,100 people. Plus about 18 acres of industrial waste, stacked in drums, up to 30 feet deep — equivalent to nine soccer fields as tall as two or three story houses.
Tricia and I discovered the site just after we moved here, in summer 2005. What sparked our initial curiosity was a multi-acre gravel and grass covered mound with sign reading: "IN CASE OF FIRE NOTIFY CROWN VANTAGE, MILFORD MILL" — located next to Opdyke Lumber.
Why would a gravel mound catch fire?!
Our exploration and research over the next few months lead us to writing a book. The book is a fascinating photo-essay of the abandoned paper mill, and both dump sites. It explores the science, dangers, as well as peoples' perceptions of the dangers.
NOTE: The Superfund book is non-profit. 5 MB (.pdf) file. Control + click (Mac) or right + click (PC) on the link above. Please download and share.
We wrote the book hoping it would be useful as a teaching resource, a basis for lesson planning, or a full unit on environmental pollution. Upper elementary grades through adult.
We are also hopeful it leads to classification of the second landfill as a Superfund site because they are typically remediated faster, although it could still be a decade or more before clean-up. Georgia-Pacific Consumer Products recently acquired the property, so we are interested to see what action they take.
Film maker Marc Reed and composer Billy Atwell created a beautiful time-lapse video of the paper mill. The rate of decay between our (2005) photos and his (2007) video illustrates how quickly abandoned industrial structures decay.
The EPA Superfund Site map will help you research where you live. It might be worth investigating.