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EPA Proposes to Add Garfield Ground Water Contamination Site in Garfield, NJ to the Superfund List

Release Date: 03/08/2011
Contact Information: Elias Rodriguez, 732-672-5520, rodriguez.elias@epa.gov

(New York, N.Y) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today proposed to add the Garfield Ground Water Contamination site in Garfield, NJ to its Superfund National Priorities List of the country’s most hazardous waste sites. Ground water underneath this commercial and residential area is contaminated with hexavalent chromium and is seeping into area basements. For the past two years, EPA has been addressing the immediate threats to people’s health posed by the contaminated ground water. A Superfund designation will allow EPA to fully investigate the contamination and develop a long-term cleanup plan. Hexavalent chromium is extremely toxic. It may cause cancer and can have other serious health impacts, including nervous system damage.

“While we have kept people out of immediate danger by monitoring and cleaning up the basements of homes and businesses in this community, we need a long-term solution to the ground water contamination in Garfield,” said Judith Enck, EPA Regional Administrator. “By placing the site on the Superfund list, EPA can do the extensive sampling needed to determine the best ways to remediate the pollution.”

Certain forms of chromium are produced by the chemical industry and used for chrome plating manufacture of dyes and pigments, leather tanning, and wood preserving. When ground water contaminated by chromium evaporates, it can leave behind chromium crystals, which can then become airborne and inhaled by people. Drinking water in Garfield is taken from the Garfield Municipal Water Supply, which is not impacted by this pollution. Chromium contamination poses no threat to the Garfield municipal water supply.

The Garfield Ground Water Contamination site is located in Garfield, Bergen County, NJ and 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. In the fall of 2008, at the request of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP), EPA began its investigation of potential chromium contaminated ground water in Garfield.

Initial surveys of homes and businesses were done to determine which buildings had basements, water seeping into them, or sump pumps so that samples could be taken. EPA surveyed or inspected nearly 500 properties potentially impacted by the contamination. The survey and inspection information was used to determine which basements were in need of sampling. Samples were taken from approximately 270 properties that were identified as having ground water infiltration problems.

At properties in which high levels of hexavalent chromium were detected, EPA removed the contamination and is monitoring the properties for any new occurrence of the contamination. EPA, in coordination with the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) and the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services, evaluated the samples taken from the Garfield properties and the health risks associated with hexavalent chromium contamination. In September 2010, ATSDR issued a health advisory recommending that EPA continue to take steps to minimize people’s exposure to the contamination and that it expedite a long-term cleanup.

Historically, industrial facilities in Garfield were located near residential areas. These facilities included a tannery and chemical plant, and two electroplating companies. Some of these facilities used chromium in their processes, potentially causing the ground water near one of these facilities to become contaminated with chromium. In June 1993, chromium contaminated ground water and crystals were discovered in the basement of the Garfield Fire House #3. Since then, several other homes and business have had elevated levels of chromium in their basements due to ground water infiltration. EPA is continuing its ongoing site investigations to determine the potential sources, the extent of contamination, and levels of chromium.

EPA is currently installing 30 monitoring wells in the southwest section of Garfield. After all the monitoring wells are installed, EPA will sample ground water in each monitoring well to determine how far and deep the chromium has spread in ground water. EPA will use these wells, and additional monitoring wells as needed, to determine the extent of chromium in ground water.

Proposing this site to the Superfund list offers the best course of action to protect human health and clean up the pollution. EPA periodically proposes sites to the Superfund National Priorities List and, after responding to public comments, designates them as final Superfund sites. The Superfund final designation makes them eligible for funds to conduct comprehensive cleanups. With all Superfund sites, EPA does an extensive search to identify and locate the parties potentially responsible for the contamination and make them 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.

To see the Federal Register notice and supporting documents for this site, as well as other proposed and final sites, on the day of publication, visit: http://www.epa.gov/superfund/sites/npl/current.htm

With the proposal of this site to the Superfund List, a 60-day comment period will begin during which EPA solicits public input regarding this action. For instructions on how to submit comments, go to: http://www.epa.gov/superfund/sites/npl/pubcom.htm or contact Ildefonso Acosta, Region 2 NPL Coordinator, at 212-637-4344, acosta.ildefonso@epa.gov.

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

To learn more about EPA Region 2, visit: http://www.epa.gov/region2/newsevents

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