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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 3, 2005

Contact: Karen Hershey - DEP
(609) 984-1795
Peter Aseltine - LPS
(609) 292-4791

DEP TO BEGIN CLEANUP AT THREE JERSEY CITY CHROME SITES

Attorney General Files Suit Naming Honeywell, Occidental Petroleum and PPG Industries Liable For 106 Sites in Hudson, Essex Counties

(05/51) JERSEY CITY -- Commissioner Bradley M. Campbell today announced that the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) will immediately begin cleanups at three chromium-contaminated sites in Jersey City. In addition, DEP has issued a directive against Honeywell International Inc., Occidental Petroleum Corporation and PPG Industries, Inc. seeking reimbursement for the cleanups.

At the same time, Attorney General Peter C. Harvey announced that the state has filed suit against the three companies in a push by DEP and the Attorney General to clean up all remaining chromium contamination.

The complaint filed against Honeywell, Occidental and PPG demands that the three defendants, as successors to the chemical manufacturers that produced the toxic waste, complete cleanup of contamination at 106 sites and reimburse DEP for its investigation, cleanup and removal costs.

DEP's directive also demands reimbursement for the cost of a study to assess the health exposure and risks to Hudson County residents living near chromium waste sites. The exposure study will build on earlier work and provide new information about the health impacts of chromium exposure. DEP is coordinating with the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) and Rutgers University on the study, which is estimated to cost $1.5 million.

"Jersey City has waited too long for cleanup of these sites," said DEP Commissioner Campbell. "We will use every tool in the law to keep Jersey City from waiting any longer, and to make sure polluters pay the costs."

"Clean water, air and land are a right, not a privilege," said Attorney General Harvey. "For too long, the residents of these communities have lived with the threat of this highly toxic chromate waste. Our lawsuit will compel the responsible companies to clean up the remaining chromium contamination."

"For too long, government has done too little to compel the corporate generators of chromium to clean up the toxic mess that they created,"said Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah T. Healy. "That is changing today and I am happy that the Attorney General's Office and the Department of Environmental Protection are joining us in an effort to compel these polluters to rid our city of chromium contamination once and for all."

DEP will use public funds to clean up chrome at three contaminated sites in Jersey City. Starting in early May, DEP will excavate contaminated soil at the former Morris Canal Site No. 2 on Grand Street near City Hall, the Tempesta and Sons property, located at 2 Aetna Street and Liberty State Park. DEP estimates the total cost of the cleanup will be over $18 million. DEP also issued a directive to Honeywell, Occidental and PPG, calling for a commitment within 10 days from the companies. If the companies do not respond and agree to cover these cleanup costs, DEP will seek, as allowed under the Spill Compensation and Control Act (Spill Act), treble damages, which is three times the amount expended by the DEP.

The complaint filed by the Attorney General in Superior Court in Hudson County also demands treble damages for cleanups at numerous sites where the defendants failed to comply with prior DEP directives.

The 106 sites represent all of the remaining, known unremediated sites of chromium contamination in Hudson and Essex counties, with the exception of six sites covered by prior legal orders. The sites are contaminated with hexavalent chromium, a highly toxic heavy metal that has been linked to lung cancer.

Along with today's cleanup announcement, the DEP Chromium Workgroup released a draft report today, which evaluated DEP's soil cleanup criteria for chromium at chrome waste sites in New Jersey. Commissioner Campbell created the workgroup in March 2004 after hearing concerns raised by the Hudson County community where most of the chrome waste sites are located. The workgroup determined that the existing criteria being used by DEP for chromium cleanups are based on valid science. However, several recommendations were made to ensure adequate documentation of decisions made at sites. Also, the workgroup recommended areas for further research to ensure confidence that the Department's standards will protect public health and the environment.

The workgroup includes experts from various DEP programs, along with a representative from the Department of Health and Senior Services and one representative from the New Jersey District of the US Geological Survey.

In the last century, Hudson County was a center of U.S. production of chromium chemicals. Over many years of chromate production, the three Hudson County manufacturers, corporate predecessors of the companies named in the lawsuit, generated more than two million tons of chromium bearing waste. The chromate waste was used as fill for construction projects, resulting in deposits throughout Hudson and Essex counties.

Toxic chromium ions continue to leach from the waste and solidify on surfaces at the contaminated sites, creating a public health threat. In addition to being a lung carcinogen, hexavalent chromium can cause dermatitis, chromium ulcers, and nasal septum perforations.

For more information about the NJDEP Chromium Workgroup, visit the Department's Web site at: http://www.state.nj.us/dep/dsr/chromium/

 

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Last Updated: May 3, 2005