Governor James E. McGreevey has announced a $17 million settlement with three major corporations to compensate the state of New Jersey for environmental damages caused by chromium contamination throughout Hudson and Essex counties.
"The message to polluters is clearyou can run, but you cant hide," said McGreevey. "New Jersey reached an historic milestone today in protecting our natural resources and holding polluters accountable for damages to our environment. Whether it is development that threatens our drinking water, bad policies in Congress that threaten our air, or contamination of our parks, this Administration will not back down in a fight to protect the environment."
As part of "Accomplishments Week," the Governor announced that New Jersey finalized the Natural Resource Damage (NRD) settlement with Honeywell International of Morristown, PPG Industries of Pittsburgh, and Tierra Solutions, Inc. of New Brunswick (a holding company of the Occidental Corporation of New York) to compensate the state for natural resource damages involving 210 chromium waste sites and groundwater contamination.
In the early part of the century, three out of the six plants in the United States processing chromium for machinery parts and other uses were located in Hudson County. From 1900 to 1970, these facilities generated millions of tons of chromate waste that was deposited at locations throughout Hudson and Essex counties as fill material, leading to extensive contamination of ground water, soils, wetlands and other natural resources.
The payment terms for the three companies, which is outlined in an Administration Consent Order, are as follows: Honeywell International will pay $8,639,371; PPG Industries, $6,725,712; and, Tierra Solutions, Inc., $1,634,916. The Consent Order with the three companies resolves only the natural resource damage portions of the chromium issue. DEP is working with the three companies under separate orders to conduct site investigations and cleanup work at the 182 sites where chromium was found.
Some of the chromium waste still remains at Liberty State Park where McGreevey announced the settlement yesterday, joined by Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Bradley M. Campbell, Attorney General Peter Harvey and local community representatives. DEP, working with community and environmental representatives, will develop priority projects that will be funded with the settlement monies and enhance local community and natural resources damaged by the contamination, including wetlands restoration work at Liberty State Park and open space purchases that will improve water quality in the area.
"In our efforts to protect the states natural resources, we are aggressively stepping up efforts to follow through with settling a large universe of outstanding claims," said Campbell. "This settlement marks a significant victory for the publics right to compensation for pollution of our water resources and an important victory for residents of Hudson and Essex counties who have for too long endured the loss of their natural resources because of this chromium contamination."
Kate Adams, Honeywell's Vice President and Deputy General Counsel for Litigation said, "This agreement underscores Honeywell's commitment to working cooperatively with the public sector to resolve issues that affect public health and the environment. Over the past 20 years, we have dedicated substantial resources to environmental cleanups in Hudson County and throughout the state. Honeywell believes a good business model is to strive for comprehensive public/private partnerships. We look forward to continuing our productive relationships with Governor McGreevey, Commissioner Campbell and his staff."
Under the Governor's leadership, the state has demonstrated substantial success in addressing natural resource damage (NRD) claims. The McGreevey Administration has achieved a total of $24 million in natural resource damage settlements, exceeding the total amount previously recovered since the program began in 1993.
The settlement represents a significant step in the Governors ongoing effort to make responsible parties pay for damages to the states natural resources. In September 2003, the state announced a large-scale policy directive to accelerate the process for pursuing more than 4,000 potential claims for natural resource damages across New Jersey. The Department of Environmental Protection and Attorney Generals office will work to recover compensation on behalf of the residents of New Jersey for the lost use of natural resources caused by industrial pollution.
Natural resource damage is the dollar value of the total restoration that is necessary to compensate the residents of New Jersey for the injury to natural resources. Injuries can be both ecological injuries to wetlands, wildlife, ground water or surface water and human use injuries such as the closure of a waterway to fishing, a beach to swimming or an aquifer to drinking water supply. In addition, restoration may include compensation for the natural resource services lost from the beginning of the injury through the full recovery of the resource.
Groundwater injuries are calculated with a formula that estimates the volume of contaminated groundwater, the value of the water and duration of the injury to arrive at a settlement amount.
New Jerseys Spill Compensation and Control Act provides that any entity that has discharged hazardous substances onto the land or into the waters of the state is liable for cleanup and removal costs, as well as the cost of restoring or replacing natural resources injured by the discharge.
The chromium-contaminated sites vary in size from a small lot to 35 acre tracts, and are spread across residential, commercial, industrial and recreational settings. To date, 58 have been cleaned up, while remedial work is still underway at the other 124.
Chromium is a naturally occurring element that when processed converts to hexavalent chromium, a carcinogen. Long-term exposure though direct contact, inhalation or ingestion may cause allergic responses, respiratory or kidney problems and increased risk of lung cancer.
DEP allocates money from contaminated site natural resource damage settlements for restoration projects and land purchases in the same watershed or general area of damage. Examples of restoration include: wetland creation/enhancement, non-point pollution control projects, purchase of aquifer recharge areas, research for restoration of endangered species, and public education projects.
Deputy Attorneys General Anna Lascurain and George Schlosser of the Division of Laws Hazardous Site Litigation Unit headed the negotiations with the three companies for the state.