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News Releases from Region 02

EPA Finalizes Cleanup Plan for defunct E.C. Electroplating Plant in Garfield, N.J.

Cleanup will Cost an Estimated $37 Million

Contact Information: 
Elias Rodriguez (rodriguez.elias@epa.gov)

(New York, N.Y. – Sept. 21, 2016) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has finalized its plan to address groundwater contaminated with hexavalent chromium at the Garfield Groundwater Contamination Superfund site in Garfield, New Jersey.

Groundwater contaminated with hexavalent chromium from a former electroplating plant located at 125 Clark Street, has seeped into area basements in the surrounding community. Hexavalent chromium is extremely toxic and can cause cancer and other serious health impacts, including kidney and liver damage. When groundwater contaminated by hexavalent chromium evaporates, it can leave behind chromium crystals, which can then adhere to the skin and be accidentally ingested by people. The EPA has inspected over 500 homes in Garfield and remediated 14 basements and has an ongoing program of assessing and remediating basements.

“The EPA has taken action to address a serious toxic problem in a residential area in Garfield, N.J,” said EPA Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck. “Because the company that created the toxic problem is no longer in business, the EPA will spend $37 million in tax dollars from our Superfund program to deal with this toxic legacy. The situation in Garfield illustrates the need for a well-funded federal Superfund program, something that is not currently in place.”

The EPA’s plan requires a combination of cleanup measures to address the problem 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 site consists of the E.C. Electroplating property and chromium-contaminated groundwater that extends a half-mile west from the property to the Passaic River. In December 1983, 3,640 gallons of chromic acid spilled from an underground tank at the now defunct E.C. Electroplating property and contaminated the groundwater. From 1983 to 2009, the electroplating plant continued to operate as the chemical contaminated the factory building, soil, and groundwater in the area.

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, the EPA put the site on the federal Superfund list.

Since then the EPA has spent $5 million at this site by addressing the immediate concerns from hexavalent chromium seeping into area basements. The EPA has demolished the factory building, 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 from the E.C. Electroplating property. Through this effort, the EPA has addressed the source of the contamination originating from the former plant. The EPA conducted an in-depth investigation of the extent of the groundwater contamination and conducted a pilot study to determine how best to clean up groundwater over the long term.

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, please visit: http://www.epa.gov/superfund/garfield-groundwater

To link directly to the record of decision, visit: https://semspub.epa.gov/src/document/02/377072

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