Ex-Pompton Lakes Mayor Keeps Up Contamination Fight

POMPTON LAKES, N.J. -- Former Mayor Jack Sinsimer may have moved to South Carolina, but he left his heart in Pompton Lakes, which is why he based his first novel on chemical contamination at the DuPont munitions plant -- and returned there to help residents continue a decades-long fight to clean it up.

Former Pompton Lakes Mayor Jack Sinsimer
Former Pompton Lakes Mayor Jack Sinsimer Photo Credit: Michael Sinsimer

Sinsimer recently published "The Brook," which centers on a corrupt corporate cover-up accidentally discovered by -- who else? -- a small-town mayor.

He then set out on a book signing tour, with a stop in Pompton Lakes.

"The fact alone that former Mayor Sinsimer, long retired, would take the time to come back to Pompton after moving away to bring his book and his knowledge of the contamination situation here should be a major testament to our town council of the enormous tra[g]edy...brought to our town.," wrote resident Anne Tacinelli.

Sinsimer won the mayoralty in an upset in 1988, then stumbled on DEP reports from DuPont on contamination of Pompton Lake and Acid Brook from the plant in the Ramapo Mountains above.

“The more I read, the more scared I got," Sinsimer told NJ Spotlight. "I realized that when I had been out campaigning, I met a lot of people with weird illnesses in those neighborhoods (below)."

Sinsimer said he'd become a Silkwood, of sorts, receiving death threats, finding his tires slashed and more.

DuPont, which had been the borough's largest employer for decades, closed the plant more than 20 years ago. Contaminated soil eventually was removed and a groundwater treatment system installed. But it moved slowly.

Then, in 2008, a chemical “plume” that released toxic vapors was discovered beneath 500 homes. A year later, state health officials confirmed a “cancer cluster” among residents.

After retiring as a computer executive and heading South, Sinsimer began teaching English. He told NJ Spotlight that he also found friends dying of pancreatic cancer "and other exotic illnesses."

Sinsimer said he began compiling a database and recast what had been a memoir into non-fiction.

Earlier this year, under EPA orders to expand dredging of contaminated sediment from Pompton Lake, DuPont transferred responsibility to a spinoff company.

“When I heard that, I knew I had to come [back]," Sinsimer told NJ Spotlight.

“My advice to the general public," he told the web site, "is to wake up about what’s going on around you and pay more attention to what’s affecting your health.”

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