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EPA Orders GE To Demolish Mercury-Contaminated Condo in Hoboken and Clean Up Site; Estimated Cost of $4 Million

Release Date: 04/03/1998
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(#98027) NEW YORK, N.Y. -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has ordered the General Electric Company (GE) to clean up a mercury-contaminated condominium property on Grand Street in Hoboken, New Jersey, which is now a federal Superfund site. The cleanup order includes the demolition of a mercury- contaminated building, proper disposal of the resulting debris, excavation and disposal of contaminated soil, and other site cleanup activities. The costs of these measures will be roughly $4 million. The directives are contained in a Superfund Unilateral Order that EPA issued to GE today.

GE manufactured mercury vapor lamps in the building at 722 Grand Street from approximately 1919 to 1948. Mercury contamination forced the evacuation and relocation of the building's occupants in January 1996. Long-term human exposure to mercury can cause severe damage to the central nervous system and kidneys.

EPA Regional Administrator Jeanne M. Fox said, "We are taking this legal action because we have been unable to reach an amicable cleanup agreement with GE. The contamination forced hard-working artists and their families out of their homes. We expect those responsible for creating the problem to take responsibility for their past actions."

In addition to building demolition, the order calls for the removal of the contaminated debris for treatment and/or disposal off-site, and excavation and off-site disposal of soils on the property contaminated with unsafe levels of mercury. Monitoring to determine if mercury from the site has contaminated groundwater or the soils on adjacent properties is also required by the order. EPA selected these measures on September 30, 1997 as appropriate for the site after the state of New Jersey concurred on the decision and thorough public review. The Agency will supervise the work to ensure it is done safely with minimal inconvenience to the neighborhood.

EPA made its determination to demolish the building based, in large part, on the primarily residential nature of the area, the likelihood of its continued residential character, and the long- term difficulty of ensuring the safety of future residents or workers if an attempt was made to clean up the existing building for reuse.

Site Background:

The building was purchased by a group of working artists in August 1993, and then converted to condominium living/working spaces.

In January 1996, the Hoboken Health Department ordered the 15 families living in the building to vacate their condominiums. The city took the unusual action after the New Jersey Department of Health received results of laboratory analyses that revealed elevated levels of mercury in urine samples collected from the residents and persons who had worked in the building. On January 22, 1996, the Federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) issued a Public Health Advisory based on the mercury concentrations in the urine samples and the mercury vapor concentration inside the building.

In September 1997, EPA placed the site on the Superfund National Priorities List for hazardous waste sites. This listing is being challenged in court by GE.

Under a previous Superfund Unilateral Order issued last year, two potentially responsible parties have been required to provide site security and building maintenance; these are GE and John Pascale, Sr. EPA's Superfund program has been paying the costs of temporary housing for the families since the evacuation, and will continue to do so until EPA can purchase the property and permanently relocate the families.

For more information contact:

Richard Cahill, Press Office
EPA Region 2
290 Broadway
NY, NY 10007-1866
Voice: 212-637-3666 FAX: 212-637-5046 E-Mail: