As the former director of Special Services in Old Bridge, I have always been concerned about environmental impacts on the health, safety and access to learning of children. As a citizen, I am motivated to do something about it. That’s why I am joining many others across Central Jersey who are concerned about a new gas-fired compressor station.
While the “causes” of disabilities are often elusive, children with special needs are certainly impacted by environmental toxins. So when I learned that the company Williams-Transco planned to build a natural gas compressor station near my home, I started learning more about gas pipelines and compressor stations, and I became alarmed about their potential dangers.
The proposed facility, part of the Northeast Supply Enhancement (NESE) project, will bring a new gas pipeline through Old Bridge and Sayreville, as well as under the Raritan Bay. The first problem associated with such projects is methane, the primary component of natural gas and also a very powerful greenhouse gas. Methane leaks from pipelines and compressor stations are a serious problem, and this is distressing if, like me, you believe humanity needs to take swift action to combat climate change.
But the problems associated with these dirty energy programs don’t end there. Toxic emissions from compressor stations can include carcinogens as well as ozone precursors that have direct impacts on young children, the elderly, and people with cardiovascular issues. Benzene is leaked from natural gas pipelines and compressor stations, and it is associated with leukemia, asthma attacks, lung infections, low birth weight, headaches, vomiting, and dizziness. Transco just purchased the lot next to their compressor station in Old Bridge, and any expansion of the compressor station could add more toxic emissions, along with the potential for explosions and fire. This is not a risk I want to see for the children and residents of Old Bridge.
The NESE project includes two gas pipelines in the Old Bridge/Sayreville area. Drilling for this pipeline will go under the Garden State Parkway and routes 9 and 35 will generate traffic and toxic emissions. Of note, diesel emissions are linked to asthma attacks, cancer, lung infections, heart disease and premature death. Diesel emissions also include benzene. And one worksite for the project is planned just a quarter mile from the Raritan Bay Cougars Football Field used by Pop Warner players.
There are additional concerns about Superfund sites in the area. The pipeline under the Raritan Bay, which will run to an offshore site two miles south of Rockaway Beach, is very close to the jetty section of the Raritan Bay Slag Superfund Site. This has raised fears that pipeline drilling could cause more lead to flake off or leach into to water and soil. And there are other sites closer to home, like the Global Sanitary Landfill, and the continuing cleanup of E.I. DuPont de Nemours and Company groundwater contamination.
Residents of Old Bridge and Sayreville, and in other communities in Central Jersey, have been learning more about the dangers of this pipeline and compressor station. Most recently, the advocacy groups Food & Water Watch and NY/NJ Baykeeper lead an public meeting in June with over 100 bayshore residents in attendance. It is never too late to protect the health and well-being of residents, wildlife and the environment. Township councils and environmental commissions should be encouraged to pass resolutions opposing the Transco project. They won’t do this unless more of us speak up.
Barbara Cuthbert, Ed.D, is a former special education teacher, supervisor and director of Special Services in Old Bridge.