STATE REACHES SETTLEMENT ON CHROMIUM CONTAMINATION
IN HUDSON COUNTY;
COMPANIES TO PAY $15 MILLION
(11/P76) TRENTON - Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin and New Jersey Attorney General Paula Dow announced today the State has reached a settlement with Honeywell International Inc., Occidental Chemical Corp., and PPG Industries, Inc. to reimburse the State for the cleanup of numerous chromium contaminated sites in Hudson County, and also to establish responsibility for continued cleanup work.
The proposed settlement calls for each of the companies to pay $5 million, or a total of $15 million, to the State. Honeywell also has agreed to reimburse the State up to an additional $1 million for work the State already has initiated at a contaminated site in Jersey City.
The settlement also requires the companies to accept responsibility for 42 "orphan sites,'' all but one located in Jersey City. These are properties contaminated with chrome chemical production waste (CCPW) for which no company previously accepted responsibility. Also, the companies must continue to remediate or monitor 126 sites listed in previous Administrative Consent Orders (ACO) with the State in accordance with a schedule to be developed and agreed to by the State.
"This is a major accomplishment in dealing with contamination that has long affected many residents of North Jersey,'' said Commissioner Martin. "If approved by the courts, the settlement will reimburse taxpayers for cleanup work the State already has done. Also, it ensures the cleanup and restoration of chromium-tainted sites will continue, allowing residents living near these sites to have a better quality of life in cleaner, healthier neighborhoods."
"This is a significant settlement, and an excellent example of government achieving an important outcome - one that will improve both our state's environment and quality of life - through litigation,'' said Attorney General Dow. "We remain committed to working in partnership with DEP to ensure the clean-up and restoration of contaminated properties throughout New Jersey."
Notice of the proposed settlement, including a list of contaminated sites, is published in the June 20 edition of the New Jersey Register, and the full text of the proposed settlement will be available for inspection at http://www.nj.gov/dep/srp/legal/honeywell_chrome_cj_20110620.pdf. If the DEP decides to proceed with the settlement after public comment, the document will be presented to Superior Court Judge Thomas Olivieri in Hudson County for approval.
The State's lawsuit was filed by Deputy Attorney General Anna Lascurain in Superior Court in May 2005 by the DEP and the State Spill Fund Administrator against Honeywell, PPG, and Occidental. It sought to have the companies undertake remediation of chrome chemical production waste at 42 "orphan sites'' that the companies had not agreed to remediate in earlier Administrative Consent Orders with DEP, and to have the three companies finish remediation at any ACO sites where restoration had not been completed. Finally, the suit asked that the State be reimbursed for costs it expended on remediation of CCPW sites and on health studies needed because of chromium waste disposal.
Chromium is used in a variety of industrial applications including metal plating, the manufacture of stainless steel and the production of colored glass. Hudson County was for many years the center of chromium chemical production in the U.S., with three of the nation's six chromium chemical production plants located in the county, including two in Jersey City and one in Kearny.
Chromium production produced large quantities of a waste product known as chromate ore processing residue, plus other contaminant by-products. One element of chromate ore processing waste - hexavalent chromium - is a highly toxic heavy metal that has been linked to a variety of health problems.
The State's lawsuit alleged the chromium waste came from Honeywell's predecessor, Mutual Chemical Company, which operated a plant on West Side Avenue in Jersey City from 1895 to 1954; PPG or its predecessors, which operated a plant at 880 Garfield Avenue in Jersey City from 1924 to 1963; and Occidental's predecessors, which operated a plant at 1015 Belleville Avenue in Kearny from 1948 to 1976.
The legal filing alleged that chromate ore processing waste was sold to entrepreneurs who in turn sold it to construction companies for use as fill in sewer line installation and other projects. The State alleged toxic chromate waste has lingered at a variety of sites throughout Hudson County and, over time, has created serious environmental and public health concerns.
In the 1980s and 1990s, Honeywell, Occidental and PPG formally agreed to investigate and clean up more than 100 chromium-contaminated sites in Hudson County that DEP identified as their responsibilities. Some of those cleanups have not yet been completed, while the issue of the "orphan sites'' has long been unresolved.