Toxic Chromium Clean-Up Battle in Jersey City Heads to Federal Court

For Immediate Release


Jenny Powers, NRDC, 212-727-4566

Toxic Chromium Clean-Up Battle in Jersey City Heads to Federal Court

Lawsuit Against PPG Follows Successful $400 Million Case Against Honeywell

WASHINGTON -  After 25 years of negligence, the largest remaining Jersey City
site riddled with cancer-causing hexavalent chromium is the focus of a
citizen’s lawsuit filed today by the Natural Resources Defense Council
(NRDC) and the Interfaith Community Organization (ICO).  The suit calls
for PPG Industries, a Pittsburgh-based corporation responsible for the
toxic contamination, to clean up the 16.6-acre site and surrounding
contaminated areas located in a densely populated area along Garfield

NRDC and ICO filed the
lawsuit today in federal district court in Newark under the citizens’
suit provisions of the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act
(RCRA).  This lawsuit comes on the heels of a recent ICO win that
forced Honeywell International Corporation to commit $400 million to
clean up a 34-acre Jersey City site, where the company’s predecessors
dumped the same toxic chromium waste. 
25 years of stalling, it’s time for PPG to take responsibility and
clean up this toxic mess,” said Nancy Marks, NRDC senior attorney. 
“For a quarter of a century, PPG has knowingly endangered the health of
countless residents, commuters and school children, who pass by this
contaminated site every day.  The Garfield Avenue community has been
poisoned by indifference.  This willful negligence must end.”
first began investigating the chromium contamination in 1982.  The New
Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) began enforcement
efforts at the PPG complex soon thereafter, and in 1990 reached an
agreement requiring PPG to clean up dozens of sites the DEP believed
they had contaminated. Those clean-up efforts should have been
completed by the late 1990s, but PPG has yet to engage in the chromium
removal project and the DEP has failed to enforce a clean-up.
tried everything else,” said Ellen Wright, a leader of ICO who has
lived in the area of the former PPG complex for 43 years.  “We’ve asked
every governor and every Department of Environmental Protection
commissioner since 1989 to get this site cleaned up.  We’ve asked PPG
Industries directly to clean up the wasteland they created and protect
the health of the people who live and work in this community.  But so
far none of the people with the power to clean up this site have been
able to feel the same sense of urgency that I feel living blocks away
from it.  So ICO and NRDC are asking the federal court to get the job
A byproduct of the
chromate chemical production facility housed on the site 50 years ago,
hexavalent chromium is toxic to humans and animals.  PPG itself sampled
soil and groundwater and reported elevated levels – some more than
2,500 times the state clean-up standard – of the toxic chemical
throughout the site.  Tests also reveal that chromium contamination has
migrated off the site to surrounding areas, including inside homes, and
schools in the densely populated African American and Latino community.
It will continue to spread until the site is cleaned up.
is a community like any other, where people live, work and raise
families,” Al Huang, NRDC environmental justice director.  “Polluters
should not be allowed to treat it like a toxic waste dump.  Instead PPG
should begin an immediate clean-up, which will not only protect
people’s health, but also create jobs in this burdened neighborhood.”
to this type of chromium has been found, in human and animal studies,
to cause cancer, respiratory problems, kidney and liver damage,
chromium ulcers, and nasal septum perforations, as well as pregnancy
and delivery complications for women.  A study found that Jersey City
residents living closer to contaminated sites have significantly higher
incidence of lung cancer than those who live further away.
chromium is an extremely dangerous chemical and should not be allowed
anywhere near a residential neighborhood,” said Jennifer Sass, NRDC
senior scientist.  “The fact that many people in this community have
been exposed to it for their entire lives is reckless and unnecessary.
 PPG must do the right thing and completely, promptly and permanently
remove this toxic chemical from the community.”

The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, nonprofit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has 1.2 million members and online activists, served from offices in New York, Washington, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Beijing.

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