DEP: We’ll Look at Chromium Standards

With its hand forced by the petitions for rulemaking filed in early May by the Interfaith Community Organization (ICO), the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Jersey City community group GRACO, the state Department of Environmental Protection announced today that it will develop “final standards” for cleaning up chromium-contaminated soil — by 2011.

“New Jersey already has the nation’s most protective policy in place for the cleanup of soil contaminated with hexavalent chromium, but we need permanent standards,” acting DEP commissioner Mark Mauriello says in a release. “The principles of sound science as well as state law dictate that we conduct a full evaluation before adopting final standards. We will begin the process of setting final cleanup standards for chromium at the start of next year.”

The press release issued today continues the DEP’s blackout of recommendations made by its own scientists, who said in April that the cleanup standard for hexavalent chromium in soil should be to 1 parts per million (ppm). The scientists’ report, which was based on a federal toxicology study of mice and rats, has not yet been posted on any DEP chromium website. As we reported today, under the department’s new guidelines regarding public information, the recommendations would also no longer be publicly available. The DEP’s current standard for cleanup is 20 ppm down to 20 feet.

NJ Sierra Club director Jeff Tittel was quick to criticize the DEP’s “decision,” calling it a “shameful act” that sells out Jersey City residents.

“The DEP is taking the side of special interests over the public health and safety of the people of Jersey City and Hudson County. More studies and delays mean more toxic chromium getting into out communities and families,” he says. “The Gold Coast is really the chrome coast, and DEP decision is toxic to all of us.”

Jon Whiten

co-founded the Jersey City Independent. He is currently the Deputy Director of New Jersey Policy Perspective.