Home > Uncategorized > Cancer Risks in Garfield Homes More than 2,000 Times Allowable Risk

Cancer Risks in Garfield Homes More than 2,000 Times Allowable Risk

About 175 residetns turn out to demand answers about health risks from toxic chromium found in homes and school

About 175 residents turn out to demand answers about health risks from toxic chromium found in  homes and school

[Update 3: 10/2/10: more from Bergen RecordFeds Recommend Superfund for Garfield Chromium Contamination

Update 2 : 10/1/10- we were unfortunately right about the risks from this site: Bergen Record Feds Issue Public Health Advisory in Garfield

Update 1: media coverage – NJ TV 12 story and CBS NY TV story]

I just got home from a public hearing tonight in Garfield, NJ where toxic heavy metal chromium has been found in the basements of homes and a local school, at levels EPA described as “very harmful” to the health of the residents that live there.

It is unclear at this time exactly how many homes are poisoned, but today’s Bergen Record reported only 16 (a number I am sure is far too low). See the Record story: Carcinogen found in 16 Garfield homes

Harmful levels of a cancer-causing chemical that has polluted groundwater in a Garfield neighborhood for more than 25 years have been found in the basements of 16 homes, officials said Wednesday. …

The state Department of Environmental Protection began monitoring the chromium spill, but in 1985 it agreed it would be prohibitively expensive to continue the cleanup and instead suggested the company monitor the chromium levels beneath its plant. The company failed to do so, according to DEP records.

So again we see many years of gross mismanagement at DEP that resulted in people getting exposed and poisoned in their own homes.

DEP has known about the contamination since 1983 (27 years) , but made a decision (without the Garfield community’s knowledge or approval) that it was “prohibitively expensive” to cleanup the pollution, thus sacrificing people’s lives to industry profits.

Again we see a total DEP failure to enforce cleanup laws. And again DEP failed to notify or warn people of the risks – and as a result again people lose all trust in DEP.

Unfortunately, I’ve seen the same story played out across dozens of NJ towns. The most recent is in nearby Pompton Lakes.

When will the managers at DEP be held accountable for this? When will DEP begin to enforce cleanup laws and force polluters to cleanup?

How many people have to get sick and die before things change?  

At tonite’s hearing, when I pressed EPA scientists to quantify what a “very harmful” cancer risk is, they indicated that the risk in sampled homes was 2 in 1,000, or 2,000 TIMES higher than the acceptable risk under NJ laws, which is 1 in a million.

The chromium contamination problem appears to have been created by an industrial site known as EC Eletroplating, where a 1983 spill polluted groundwater with toxic chromium. Additional pollution sources are suspected, but EPA refused to identify them at tonight’s hearing. EPA was given the case by NJDEP, after many years of failure by DEP to enforce NJ state cleanup laws.

I  can’t write about the complete story tonight – I am exhausted – but will provide additional information after I get a chance to review the documents distributed tonight. These documents include a site history, the DHSS risk assessment and DHSS Health Consultation.

My over-all take – based only on the power point presentation tonight –  was that the EPA and DHSS again downplayed the community health risks, and thus mislead the community. Both EPA and DHSS refused to admit that mistakes were made or assign accountability for mistakes made. And they both again failed to acknowledge the mistakes that have been made at this site by the NJ DEP, who has known about the problems since 1983, 27 years!

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  1. Mark Santillo
    May 21st, 2010 at 08:17 | #1

    I lived in Garfield from 1981 until 2007 on the Passaic River. I saw the spill occur and called the DEP. It was a holiday weekend and there was no way to leave a message. I called the Fire Department -believe Fire Co. #1 and they came to my dock and took water samples. I didn’t hear about this until 2 years ago and I attended the first Garfield town meeting. I asked the EPA to redraw their lines as they said anything south of Monroe street was not going to be tested. I am still waiting for those test results -as is my Ex who still resides in that house. I had a kidney removed 2 years ago which was from cancer.

  2. May 21st, 2010 at 09:07 | #2

    Thanks Mark – looks like we’ll see a familiar pattern, where the original DEP, EPA, DHSS area sampled gets expanded and more problems get discovereed. It is outrageous that DEP failed to warn the community or enforce cleanup of the groundwater (not just monitoring – which the Bergen Record said the company didn’t even do anywway! REsidents need to organize a group and kep the pressure on DHSS and EPA – given the high levels found in some homes, DHSS should fund a study of blood and urione testing.

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