The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has begun training people from the Newark, New Jersey, area so they can work on the federal cleanup of the Passaic River.
The state's first Superfund Job Training Initiative started Monday in the city's Ironbound section. Spencer Ross was unemployed when he heard about the training program. He used to work in a fruit distribution facility near the river.
"I was interested, because I live in this area, and I know about the contamination of the Passic River," he said. "Plus, I needed a job."
Carol Johnston, from the Ironbound Community Corporation, worked with the EPA to develop the program, which seeks to get more locals working on the cleanup of the Diamond Alkali site, which used to produce Agent Orange and pesticides.
"The idea is to try and have a community that's been so adversely affected by this pollution to, in a very direct way, begin to experience some of the economic development that comes from that," she explained.
The program combines classroom instruction with training on how to handle hazardous materials, like the dioxin and PCB's that will be dredged from the sediment in the Passaic beginning in the spring. Trainee Evonna Crudup said she's already learning a lot about the waterway she grew up near. "I actually did not know the Passaic River was that toxic," she said. "So I think it's interesting and valuable to be getting a chance to learn how to protect ourselves against hazardous waste."
Graduates will leave with certification that will allow them to work on cleanup projects around New Jersey.