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EPA Adds Garfield Ground Water Contamination Site in Garfield, NJ to the Superfund List; 500 Homes and Businesses Inspected for Contamination by Hexavalent Chromium

Release Date: 09/15/2011
Contact Information: Elias Rodriguez, 212-637-3664, rodriguez.elias@epa.gov

(New York, N.Y.) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced its decision to add the Garfield Ground Water Contamination site in Garfield, New Jersey to its Superfund National Priorities List of the country’s most hazardous waste sites. Ground water contaminated with the chemical hexavalent chromium is seeping into basements in some Garfield homes and businesses. Hexavalent chromium is extremely toxic, may cause cancer and can cause nervous system damage. Drinking water for Garfield comes from the Garfield Municipal Water Supply, which is not contaminated. For the past two years, EPA has been working in Garfield to better understand the contamination and protect people from contact with the contamination.

“Adding this site to the Superfund list will enable EPA to fully investigate the source of the contamination and over time clean it up,” said Judith Enck, EPA Regional Administrator. “EPA will continue to work closely with Garfield residents and businesses to protect the health of everyone who lives and works in buildings affected by the toxic contamination.”

Chromium is a naturally occurring element found in rocks, animals, plants, soil and other sources. Certain forms of chromium are produced by the chemical industry and used for chrome plating, the manufacture of dyes and pigments, leather tanning, and wood preserving. When ground water contaminated by hexavalent chromium evaporates, it can leave behind chromium crystals, which can then adhere to the skin and be accidentally ingested by children and adults.

The Garfield Ground Water Contamination site, which is located in a mixed commercial and residential neighborhood, is bordered by Van Winkle Avenue to the north, Monroe Street to the south, Sherman Place to the east, and the Passaic River to the West. Historically, industrial facilities in Garfield were located in close proximity to residential areas, including a tannery, a chemical plant and two electroplating companies. Some of these facilities used hexavalent chromium in their processes, and the nearby ground water is now contaminated with the chemical. In June 1993, water containing hexavalent chromium and dried crystals of chromium were discovered in the basement of the local Garfield Fire House #3. In 2002, at the request of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, EPA began its investigation of ground water contamination in Garfield. EPA has surveyed or inspected nearly 500 properties potentially impacted by the contamination and taken samples from approximately 400 properties that have ground water infiltration problems. When high levels of hexavalent chromium are detected, EPA removes the contamination, informs people who might come into contact with the water and monitors the properties. EPA is continuing its investigation to determine where the contamination is coming from, where it is located and at what levels.

The final designation as a Superfund site makes the Garfield Ground Water Contamination site and other sites on the Superfund list eligible for funds to conduct long-term cleanups. EPA proposed this site for inclusion on the Superfund list in March 2011 and a 60-day comment period followed during which the public was encouraged to submit comments.

With all Superfund sites, EPA does an extensive search to identify and locate the parties potentially responsible for the contamination and requires them to pay for or perform the cleanup work. The majority of Superfund cleanups are performed by or paid for by polluters, not tax dollars. Superfund money is used for EPA oversight costs and when no responsible party can be identified.

EPA is adding 15 other sites across the country to the Superfund list today and proposing 11 others to be added to the list. For more information on Superfund, go to http://www.epa.gov/superfund/.

For more information about the Garfield site, visit: http://www.epa.gov/region2/superfund/removal/garfield.

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