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EPA to Demolish Contaminated Building at Toxic Superfund Site in Garfield, N.J.

Release Date: 08/08/2012
Contact Information: Mary Mears, 212-637-3673, mears.mary@epa.gov

(New York, N.Y.) U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck was joined today by New Jersey Senator Frank R. Lautenberg, Senator Robert Menendez and Congressmember Bill Pascrell, Jr. as she announced that the EPA will safely demolish the E.C. Electroplating building at the Garfield Superfund site in Garfield, New Jersey. The building, located at 125 Clark Street, is contaminated with hexavalent chromium that is reaching the basements of some area residences and businesses through the ground water. Hexavalent chromium is extremely toxic, may cause cancer and can cause nervous system damage. The Regional Administrator and members of Congress were joined by Garfield Mayor Joseph Delaney, local officials and community members to review progress and discuss the ongoing Superfund cleanup at the former electroplating facility.

“The EPA has done a great deal of work since 2002 to reduce the health risks to the people who live and work in the area of Garfield affected by chromium contaminated ground water,” said EPA Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck. “Today we’re pleased to announce that we’re ready to take a step forward in the long-term cleanup of the Garfield Superfund site.”

Preliminary sampling shows that parts of the E.C. Electroplating building, its two basements and the soil located under the structure are contaminated with the chemical hexavalent chromium. The structure needs to be demolished in order to properly dispose of the contaminated sections of the building and to remove the contaminated soil underneath. The EPA tested the industrial materials left at the former E.C. Electroplating and will safely remove and properly disposed of them at licensed facilities.

The EPA is currently preparing the building for demolition by removing over 220 drums and cleaning the building surface. The agency will work closely with local officials to determine the best time to do the demolition and will hold a community meeting before demolition begins to inform area residents and building owners about the work. Strict procedures will be followed to control dust during the demolition, with special attention paid to the Garfield No.7 School and to a daycare center located near the site. The EPA will establish an air monitoring network to ensure that contamination is contained during the demolition work. The air monitoring plan will be shared with the public before work begins. The demolition work is presently scheduled to take place in October.

Ground water underlying the site is also contaminated with the hexavalent chromium and is seeping into basements in some Garfield homes and businesses. Drinking water for Garfield comes from the Garfield Municipal Water Supply, which is not contaminated and is routinely tested to ensure that it meets federal and state drinking water standards, which it does.

The Garfield Superfund 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 was discovered in the basement of Garfield Fire House #3. In 2002, at the request of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, the EPA began its investigation of ground water contamination in Garfield.

In September 2010, the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry issued a health advisory recommending that the EPA continue to take steps to minimize people’s exposure to the contamination and that it expedite a long-term cleanup. The site was added to the federal Superfund list in 2011.

The EPA used its Superfund’s emergency response authority in Garfield to address the immediate health threats in properties where ground water had carried hexavalent chromium into basements. Over 500 homes and businesses have been inspected for hexavalent chromium contamination and over 2,000 samples have been analyzed. The EPA has found about 15 properties that require cleanups to protect occupants from unacceptable levels of chromium that have seeped into their basements. The EPA has an ongoing inspection and assessment program to assist any concerned residents within the impacted area.

The EPA has established a network of ground water monitoring wells to determine the extent of chromium contamination in the ground water. This in-depth investigation will allow the EPA to determine how best to clean up chromium contaminated ground water.

Superfund is the federal cleanup program established by Congress in 1980 to investigate and clean up the country’s most hazardous waste sites. When sites are placed on the Superfund list, the EPA looks for parties responsible for the pollution and requires them to pay for the cleanups. In this instance, the EPA has identified E.C. Electroplating as a company that may be liable for the cleanup. The company, however, alleges it lacks funds to conduct any cleanup. To date, the EPA’s cleanup costs for this site exceed four million dollars. The EPA is continuing its search for other parties responsible for the contamination at the site.

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

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