Stimulus A Boon For Polluted NJ Watershed

The economic stimulus bill passed earlier this year has some added benefits in places like New Jersey. The bill included $600 million in new money for an old job - cleaning up dozens of polluted Superfund sites - while adding badly needed new jobs in economically hard hit areas, as CBS Evening News Saturday anchor Jeff Glor reports.

You can still find beauty along a stretch of wetlands in southern New Jersey, despite what it's been through.

From the 1950s to the 80s, the Vineland Chemical Company spewed more than a hundred tons of arsenic into the Maurice River system, which made its way downstream through lakes and creeks as far south as Cape May point. The pollution reached 40-50 miles downstream.

Community activist Jane Galetto watched the silent health hazard unfold. The old chemical company shut down, the owners passed away, and the 54-acre toxic site became a public problem.

The responsible parties are gone, and that means taxpayers are left picking up the tab for the cleanup.

Since the late 90s, the Vineland plant has been classified as a Superfund site, which means the Environmental Protection Agency gets taxpayer money to clean up the mess.

But considering the scope of the damage, the $9.5 million a year the EPA received meant slow progress.

Now the EPA says the economic stimulus will provide a booster shot of up to $25 million more to speed up clean-up and, as a bonus, add up to 50 jobs.

The stimulus money is "very important," said Ron Namen, the Vineland site manager for the EPA. "We're hoping to, actually perhaps double the amount of staff we have here and expedite this project by as much as two years."

"It beats the alternative of just leaving it alone and ignoring it as if it'll go away on its own because it's not gonna go away on its own," Galetto said.

Cheryl Fox, who runs a canoe and kayak business, says cleaning up the wetlands is bringing tourists back to the area.

"We are growing," she said. "We more people gravitating to this area."

And for those who never left - human and otherwise - it could mean a better place to raise a family.

"We're gonna create a nice stream corridor and wetland area much like the area was 40 or 50 years ago," Namen said.

Cleanup costs used to be paid in part by a Superfund tax on chemical and oil companies, which expired in 1995.

Some environmental groups hope that when the stimulus money expires two years from now, the old tax will be restored. But new chemical companies are opposed, saying they shouldn't have to pay for old sites they didn't pollute.