Garfield, New Jersey’s groundwater could be putting its residents at risk–the chemical toxic hexavalent chromium is seeping into the area’s groundwater, due to a massive leak that occurred almost 30 years ago. Hexavalent chromium might ring a bell, as it was the toxic villain that poisoned hundreds of residents in Hinkley, CA, featured in the blockbuster Erin Brockovich.
The small New Jersey newspaper, The Record, conducted an investigative report on a leak from the E.C. Electroplating plant back in 1983. Over three tons of chromium was accidentally released into the area’s groundwater. The subsequent clean up stopped when just 30 percent of the chemicals had been cleaned up, a decision sanction by the New Jersey Environmental Protection Agency. The controversial decision was made in 1985, based on a claim that the cost of the clean up was not justified in comparison to the damage it would incur, since there were “no drinking water wells” in the area.
But the hexavalent chromium could not just go away, and it still remains there today. In fact, the spill has slowly spread over the past 28 years to the areas around the initial E.C. site. Chromium has been reported in basements around the area over the years, and most recently in apartment buildings, homes, and in stores. This close proximity has finally caused the EPA to take charge and reopen the clean up process of the cancer causing contaminant. The EPA also warns that heavy rains could cause residents to be at a significant risk of chromium poisoning.
State officials now admit that the Department of Environmental Protection failed at cleaning up Garfield and that poor decisions were made. The clean up, which can cost tax payers upwards of 10 million dollars, could take the EPA over ten years to complete.
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