WOODLAND PARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — After more than a century of industrial pollution, the Hackensack River is a step closer to gaining a federal Superfund designation that could trigger a cleanup of the tainted sediment in the waterway.

The Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday said it has seen enough evidence of pollution that it will sample the river’s sediment to see if it should be labeled a Superfund site.

“That will give the EPA the ability to determine who all the responsible parties are, bring those responsible parties to the table and then come up with a plan that will help to clean the bed of the river, ” Hackensack Riverkeeper Captain Bill Sheehan.

The EPA made the determination after a months-long study of 17 miles of the river from Oradell down to Newark Bay.

A preliminary review found a witch’s brew in the sediment of lead, PCBs, dioxin, mercury and cadmium, WCBS 880’s Sean Adams reported.

“This is all legacy pollution from the days before we had strict environmental laws,” Sheehan said. “This we’ve literally been trying to solve for a long time and this brings us one step closer.”

The EPA will sample the river sediment next year. It will then conduct multiyear studies to determine the extent of the pollution and how to clean it up if it’s named a Superfund site.

If Superfund status is granted, the EPA would identify the sources of pollution — potentially more than 900 — and make those parties pay for the dredging and cleanup.

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