The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Luke Eshleman (202) 265-7337

High Chromium Danger Known By New Jersey Leaders Since 2007

Lisa Jackson and DEP Brass Decided to Proceed As If New Data Did Not Exist


Lisa Jackson and other New Jersey officials knew about
dramatically higher danger levels for chromium in the soil back in 2007,
according to e-mails released today by Public Employees for Environmental
Responsibility (PEER). Despite this knowledge, Jackson who now heads the
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, decided to ignore those findings in
taking a series of actions which left the public exposed to dangerous chromium

The "Risk Assessment for Hexavalent Chromium" performed for the
state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) was finalized on April 8,
2009 but was first made available for agency review in early 2007. In a May
17, 2007 e-mail Jackson writes:

"The impt question is what the [new data] mean for soils? What would
220 ppm [parts-per-million] be in light of these results? Please advise.

Jackson was informed that the result would be a much "more stringent
soil clean-up number" estimated to be "between 2 and 20 ppm" - vastly
tighter than the current standard espoused by Jackson. In fact, the final recommended
carcinogenicity level in the risk assessment was 1 ppm.

Zoe Kelman, a DEP scientist who had served on the agency's Chromium
Working Group, warned Jackson a month earlier, on April 13, 2007, that -

"...the study showed toxic effects in every organ throughout the
body. Tissue distribution sample showed the chromium concentrations increased
with increased exposure concentration and duration of exposure. What I find
most disturbing is that the scientific literature already contained most of
this information...NJDEP chose to ignore [these] studies to the detriment
of the public. The decades of delay and equivocation have unnecessarily increased
the body burden of toxic chromium in Hudson County residents."

Rather than act, Jackson continued to equivocate:

"I've been thinking about the chrome issue. I'd like a briefing...There
are too many things going on that I don't feel on top of."

Jackson and DEP then proceeded to act as if the new data were non-existent:

  • In February of that year, Jackson had lifted the DEP moratorium on
    chromium clean-ups claiming that "sound science" supported clean-up
    criteria which the new data found would be dangerous. When presented with
    the new data, Jackson did not re-impose the moratorium;
  • In September 2008, Jackson re-affirmed the 240 ppm clean-up standard
    even though state officials knew this standards was more than 200 times laxer
    than needed to protect public health; and
  • In late 2008, DEP approved a settlement with PPG Industries for
    clean-up levels at the old, unsafe levels.

"For years, public safety assurances on chromium clean-ups issued by
state officials, starting with Ms. Jackson, have been knowingly false," stated
PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting that DEP has still yet to post the
new chromium risk assessment on its website. "New Jersey can no longer
bury its head in the sand. For the sake of its citizens, it must finally conduct
complete clean-ups of deadly chromium."

Read the Lisa Jackson e-mails

View the new chromium risk assessment

similar concerns about Jackson's record in New Jersey

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) is a national alliance of local state and federal resource professionals. PEER's environmental work is solely directed by the needs of its members. As a consequence, we have the distinct honor of serving resource professionals who daily cast profiles in courage in cubicles across the country.