NJ Voices: Pulling plug on a city’s past

NJ Voices: Pulling plug on a city’s past
Mark DiIonno provides an obituary for one of Newark’s oldest — and most infamous — downtown buildings, the Westinghouse factory.

“This area of Essex County was a triangle of American electrical component factories,” said John T. Cunningham, whose book “Made in New Jersey” documents the state’s industrial growth. “Westinghouse had a number of New Jersey factories, making lamps, curling irons, and other household appliances, and sophisticated instrumentation.”

For much of six decades of the last century, back when America actually made stuff, the Westinghouse plant employed 3,000 people and pumped out 116,000 units a month, all stamped with “Made in Newark, N.J.”

Mayor Booker gleefully announced this eyesore would finally come down in 2008 after decades of disuse, and many are only too happy to see it go. Meanwhile, nearby residents are concerned that the site demolition might be leaking harmful contaminants: Star Ledger: Neighbors fear demolition is a health hazard.

The land is contaminated with chlorinated solvents known as trichloroethylene and perchloroethylene, as well as petroleum products, said Lawrence Hajna, a spokesman for the Department of Environmental Protection. Workers are cleaning up those chemicals by pumping into the ground a substance called sodium persulfate, which speeds the breakdown of pollutants into harmless components, he said.

“In terms of the contaminants, the chemical contaminants inside the building, we don’t feel there’s anything to be overly concerned about during the demolition,” Hajna said.

Author: Ken Walker

Husband, Father, Analyst. In a glass case of emotion since 1978.

4 thoughts on “NJ Voices: Pulling plug on a city’s past”

  1. “…we don’t feel there’s anything to be overly concerned about during the demolition.“Let me tell you, if you’ve ever waited for the light rail at Broad Street Station, in the shadow of Westinghouse, you’ve been able to taste the poison in the air, much more so than you can smell chemicals. I hope they’re being extremely cautious as they proceed with the demolition. The DEP flack sounds a little too cavalier for my liking…


  2. Saint, I agree. I’ve walked past the factory a number of times and it’s definitely got a distinct odor — I wonder what I’m inhaling as I walked by.
    Demolition began so rapidly after a long wait for the city and the owner to find an amicable solution for what to do with it. I hope the cleanup is legit and well monitored. Lord knows we need more EPA attention in this city.


  3. We probably won’t get it, either. I mean, who would buy condos knowing the DEP warned the neighborhood of all the health risks involved in the demolition? The location is great, especially as Rutgers pours more money into its Newark campus, but I couldn’t dream of moving there knowing what’s been in the ground (though I’m sure I won’t be able to afford it, anyway).


  4. Trust me people will buy. Look at Newport in Jersey city. People in as soon as the building went up. And that area is highly toxic.


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