By Duane Craig
Honeywell International Inc., PPG Industries Inc. and Occidental Chemical Corp. have agreed to repay New Jersey $15 million for cleanup at multiple sites with hexavalent chromium contamination, and to cleanup an additional 42 sites.
The deal has to be approved by a judge and will end six years of litigation between the state and the companies. The companies will also clean up and monitor 126 other contaminated properties. The caveats are: the companies won't be responsible for any additional contamination at the sites; or for any contamination that migrates away from the sites, unless it can be proved they are the polluters.
According to this article in NY.com, the county bearing most of the cleaning up, Hudson County, was once the "capital of chromium production in the U.S." The chemical finds a home in stainless steel and colored glass but also creates much waste in the process, usually as chromate ore. That material is a carcinogen and since it remained at several sites in New Jersey over long periods of time it created a significant health risk.
Some believe the companies got off the hook easy since the long term health effects to the people may still be unknown.