700,000-Ton Cleanup Settlement Reached in Jersey City Toxic Chromium Case
NEWARK (April 6, 2011) — PPG Industries has agreed to clean-up of one of the largest remaining sites contaminated with cancer-causing hexavalent chromium in New Jersey. The cleanup is estimated to cost PPG up to $600 million and remove an estimated 700,000 tons of chromium waste from a Jersey City neighborhood. The settlement stems from a 2009 citizen's lawsuit filed in federal court by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Interfaith Community Organization (ICO), and GRACO Community Organization (GRACO) on behalf of Jersey City residents who have been fighting for a comprehensive clean-up since the early 1980s.
"After decades of foot dragging, we now know this cleanup is going to happen, and it's going to happen right," said Nancy Marks, NRDC senior attorney. "What could have been a Swiss cheese approach to the cleanup is now a comprehensive removal of the contamination — no holes to be found. This Jersey City community should never have been stuck living on top of someone else's toxic waste in the first place. They're finally receiving the justice they deserve and will be soon free from this poisonous legacy."
The settlement ensures PPG will clear a nearly 17-acre, densely populated area of Jersey City of 700,000 tons of cancer-causing toxic waste that has plagued it for over 50 years. PPG has agreed to finance the cleanup of the area, which includes the company's former Garfield Avenue chromium plant, surrounding sites and contaminated groundwater. Wherever possible, the cleanup will involve the excavation and removal of chromium wastes, and disposal in offsite hazardous waste landfills. Strict dust control measures will protect residents and workers during the cleanup.
Since the lawsuit's filing in 2009, PPG twice attempted to have the citizen's suit thrown out of federal court in order to move forward with a less stringent state settlement. Both attempts were denied by two different judges. Notably, the federal court settlement agreement ensures the cleanup will reduce chromium levels to 5 parts per million (ppm), which reflects the best available science about the health effects of exposure to the chemical and is much more stringent that the state’s enforceable limit of 20 ppm. PPG will also test residential properties near the Garfield Avenue site upon request and clean up any contaminated properties to the 5ppm level. Since this agreement was reached in federal court, it also includes binding deadlines that cannot be delayed by state bureaucracy.
"This is a victory for environmental justice, for public health, and for the economic rebirth of an area that for half a century has been a toxic wasteland in the midst of a densely populated section of Jersey City," said Reverend Willard Ashley, co-chairperson of ICO and pastor of Abundant Joy Community Church in Jersey City. "It's a victory that will mean more jobs and less cancer."
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