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Edgewater Residents Say EPA Cleanup Of Superfund Site Stinks

EDGEWATER, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – The Environmental Protection Agency is cleaning up a contaminated site in Edgewater, New Jersey.

But the smell has some residents concerned for their safety, and they're demanding authorities clear the air.

As CBS2's Elise Finch reported, people in Edgewater are turning up their noses at the Quanta superfund site.

"You notice a really repugnant smell when you go there, like all times of the day," homeowner Jeff Shapiro. "It'll knock you over."

For more than 100 years, the location was home to a roofing tar plant. Toxins from the facility contaminated the soil.

Now, it's being cleaned up, but as crews disturb the soil, chemicals like naphthalene, are being released.

Naphthalene is an organic compound also found in cigarette smoke and vehicle exhaust. It smells horrible and can cause headaches, dizziness, nausea, kidney and liver damage and possibly cancer.

"Highly toxic, which has killed rats in laboratory tests, and which we definitely know is permeating in the air," said Shapiro.

The location was designated a superfund site in 2002. But a lot of the people who live and work closest to it are new residents, so they have a lot of questions and concerns, Finch reported.

"If we had known that before we bought, we wouldn't have purchased here," Shapiro said.

He said the smell prevents him and his family from walking around and enjoying the shops in the neighborhood, and he's not alone.

"I won't go to the restaurants, I won't go anywhere near it," another resident said.

Recent work generated more foul smells and more complaints to the EPA in charge of cleanup. In response, the EPA is hosting public meetings to address residents' concerns.

"We're looking to decrease the size of the excavation that we're doing at the site. We're increasing the use of misters to kind of minimize the odors. We'll be covering the excavated areas with a poly-sheeting, so that after hours and even during work hours try to minimize the amount of soil that's exposed," EPA spokesperson Natalie Loney told Finch.

The meetings – held Wednesday afternoon and evening – give people a chance to get their questions answered. There's also a website where they can monitor air quality levels, odor suppression and get updates about when the multi-million dollar cleanup will finally be complete.

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