Congressman Bill Pascrell

Representing the 9th District of NEW JERSEY

Rep. Pascrell Responds to EPA's Garfield Cleanup Plan

Sep 21, 2016
Press Release
EPA’s plan to clean up extremely toxic groundwater contamination from defunct E.C. Electroplating Plant will cost an estimated $37 million

PATERSON, N.J. – U.S. Representative Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ-09) responded to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) finalization of its plan to address groundwater contaminated with hexavalent chromium, an extremely toxic compound that can cause cancer, kidney and liver damage and other serious health impacts, at the Garfield Groundwater Contamination Superfund site in Garfield.

“I am pleased that the EPA has finalized its plans to address the toxic groundwater in Garfield. Thanks for Administrator Enck for her persistence in advancing this project. As I review the details of the EPA’s final proposal, I look forward to hearing from all stakeholders to ensure this represents the best possible solution for residents in Garfield, whose homes are tainted with this contamination,” said Rep. Pascrell. "This toxic plume has been making life miserable and dangerous for the residents of Garfield residents for far too long. We must redouble our efforts to reinstitute the Superfund tax to fund programs that remediate orphan sites like Garfield, where the company responsible for causing toxic contaminations is no longer in business. Taxpayers should not get stuck with the tab for reckless corporate polluters."

Last year, Rep. Pascrell, along with U.S. Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and U.S. Representative Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), announced the reintroduction of the Superfund Polluter Pays Restoration Act to reinstate the excise tax on polluting industries to pay for the cleanup of Superfund sites, relieving taxpayers of the expense. The bill would also expand the definition of crude oil in order to make oil from tar sands and shale subject to the excise tax. Additionally, it makes funds available to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on an ongoing basis, not subject to annual appropriations.

The EPA’s plan requires a combination of cleanup measures to address the groundwater contamination in the long term, including treatment of the contaminated groundwater with a non-hazardous additive that will reduce the contamination, and restrictions on the use of the groundwater.

The Garfield site has groundwater contamination from hexavalent chromium originating from 3,640 gallons of chromic acid being spilled from an underground tank at the E.C. Electroplating, Inc. property in December, 1983. In 2010, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry and the N.J. Department of Health concluded that hexavalent chromium exposure in Garfield is a public health hazard, primarily if people are exposed to chromium dust in basements. In 2011, EPA initiated removal action of tanks and soil contaminants by adding this site to the federal Superfund list. Since then the EPA has spent $5 million to address the immediate concerns of hexavalent chromium at this site. EPA removed 5,700 tons of chromium-contaminated soil, 1,150 tons of concrete, 600 cubic yards of debris, 325 drums of hazardous waste and 6,100 gallons of polluted water. Today, EPA announced its plans to address the remaining groundwater contamination, which is based on an in-depth investigation, pilot study and public comments.

The EPA will use multiple cleanup strategies at the site:

• The EPA will continue cleaning up basements when contamination is detected. Cleanup of basements includes washing basement floors and walls to remove hexavalent chromium and applying sealants, installing drains and sump pumps, when necessary, to prevent recontamination of basement surfaces.

• Within the area that is the source of the contamination, the EPA will consider applying non-hazardous additives to the groundwater that will convert the highly toxic hexavalent form of chromium into the far less toxic and less mobile form of chromium called trivalent chromium. The specific types of additives to be used will be determined by the EPA as part of the design of the cleanup. Also, a system of pumps will be used to bring the polluted groundwater to the surface where it can be cleaned.

• Outside the area that is the source of the contamination, the EPA will consider applying non-hazardous additives to the groundwater to promote the breakdown of the pollutants. The specific process to be used to inject the additives will be determined by the EPA as part of the design of the project. Once the process has begun, the EPA will collect samples to confirm that the treatment is effective.

• The EPA will periodically collect and analyze groundwater samples to verify that the level and extent of contaminants are declining and that people’s health and the environment are protected.

• The groundwater will be monitored and restrictions will be put in place to restrict the use of groundwater from the site until the cleanup goals are met. The EPA will conduct a review every five years to ensure the effectiveness of the cleanup.

The EPA held a public meeting in Garfield on May 19, 2016 to explain its proposed plan. The EPA took public comment for 30 days and considered public input before finalizing the plan.

To read the final EPA cleanup plan, called a record of decision:
https://www.epa.gov/superfund/garfield-groundwater

To read the record of decision:
https://semspub.epa.gov/src/document/02/377072