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Garfield Chromium Far Worse Than EPA Thought

Toxic Health Threats Not Limited To Garfield

As we suspected from the outset, EPA now admits that the Garfield toxic chromium problems are far worse than state and federal officials thought and told the public.

[Watch last night’s WPIX TV News Report here:  NJ Town In Fear Over 30 Year Old Toxic Mess].

Vindicating our concerns and criticism of 27 years of failed NJ DEP oversight, the Sunday Bergen Record reported:

Tests by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency offer strong evidence that contamination from the E.C. Electroplating plant on Clark Street is still flowing into the groundwater — and that pollution is spreading well beyond the boundaries of a Superfund site that already encompasses 600 homes and businesses. 

Record reporter Scott Fallon is closely covering the Garfield issue. While I initially praised Fallon’s work (see: DEP Toxic Mismanagement Finally Called Out by Press), I later harshly criticized Fallon for letting DEP regulators off the hook for their grossly negligent mismanagement of the site (see: Swallowing the Bullshit Wholelsale).

So today I must compliment him on his aggressive reporting and effort to hold DEP accountable. Fallon wrote:

The EPA’s effort is an attempt to rectify one of the state Department of Environmental Protection’s worst failures. Almost 3 tons of chromium spilled from an outdoor tank at the plant in 1983. Despite overwhelming evidence that the toxic metal had spread into the surrounding neighborhood, the DEP suspended the cleanup less than two years later after only 30 percent was recovered.

At the time, the DEP said there was no threat to public health. Oversight by the DEP was so poor that federal officials now believe there may have been leaks at the plant for years. The chromium had been used to coat machine parts to make them last longer. Today, the neighborhood is North Jersey’s newest Superfund site.

So, let’s engage in a little “I told you so”, rehashing our well founded concerns about: 1) the expanding scope of the contamination, 2) the increasing number of homes impacted, 3) the extraordinarily level of cancer risk posed to the neighborhood, and 4) the NJ DEP’s abysmal and corrupt mismanagement of the cleanup.

Back in October 2010, we wrote about the cancer risk assessment by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.

ATSDR found an extraordinarily high cancer risk of 3 in 10, due to chromium contamination in residential basements (see: Garfield Cancer Risk From Chromium in Basements The Highest in the US.

ATSDR’s October 2010 Report found an“immediate and significant risk to human health” – far greater risks than EPA initially estimated 5 months earlier, in May (see our report on the EPA’s May 2010 public meeting: Cancer Risks in Garfield Homes More Than 2,000 Times Allowable Risk

Based on the initial EPA public meeting in May 2010, I wrote:

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 …

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.

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!

DEP’s mismanagement of chromium is not limited to the Garfield site.

Way back in 2005, we exposed DEP coverup of chromium risks and retaliation against a DEP whistleblower. We called for a federal probe: NEW JERSEY FACING CHROMIUM EMERGENCY – 1 IN 10 CANCER RISKS — State Scientist Reveals DEP Cover-Up; Demand for Federal Intervention

In 2006, we wrote about scientific fraud and lax DEP oversight: LEGISLATURE TO PROBE TOXIC COLLAPSE IN NEW JERSEY — Series of Cleanup Fiascoes Have Communities Feeling Betrayed and Vulnerable

In 2008, we wrote about troubling new science:  CHROMIUM POSES HIGHER LUNG CANCER RISK IN NEW JERSEY CITIES — State Ignored Staff Warnings of Continued Exposure Even in “Remediated” Sites


Well, with this ugly history in mind, as we suspected, the contamination in Garfield is spreading and far worse than initially presented to the public.

There are more homes and people that are at risk from the spreading contamination.

The risk levels are far higher than DEP covered up and EPA initially estimated.

The consequences of DEP’s mismanagement are becoming even more evident.

We told you so.

And these kind of serious problems are not limited to Garfield – as we’ve written, there are hundreds or possibly thousands of homes impacted by similar subsurface migration at hundreds of sites across the state (see below DEP maps).

We’ve also written that the DEP is not warning people of these risks –

Are you living in a DEP mapped “Toxic Threat Radius”?

Problems will only get worse as a result of the privatization of NJ’s toxic site cleanup program (see:  Mercenaries Now Fully In Charge of Toxic Site Cleanup in New Jersey

So, when will the media get around to reporting on those problems? LOOK!

DEP Maps of Toxic Threat Radius are not made public. Why?

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