Fighting to getting toxic waste out of Jersey City

Last year, NRDC, together with two community groups, Interfaith Community Organization and GRACO, filed a federal lawsuit in New Jersey to compel PPG Industries Inc. - a Pittsburgh-based corporation responsible for toxic hexavalent chromium contamination of a densely populated area of Jersey City - to clean up the hazardous waste it created decades ago.  

Massive quantities of hexavalent chromium, a potent carcinogen and the villain in the film Erin Brockovich, continue to contaminate the former production site, groundwater beneath the site, and surrounding neighborhoods.  These dangerous levels of hexavalent chromium are a real threat to the health of community residents – and the toxin has been found in their homes, on their lawns, and in their basements.  

Having failed to clean up its pollution for decades after it was known to be posing a hazard, PPG has knowingly endangered the health of countless residents, commuters, and school children, who pass by this contaminated site every day.   

Yet, for the past 35 years, the State of New Jersey has failed to enforce its orders to PPG to clean up the chromium.  But shortly after NRDC filed its lawsuit, the State, the City of Jersey City, and PPG announced that they had settled all outstanding claims in state court.  They then filed a motion in our federal case claiming on several legal grounds that our lawsuit should be dismissed because their agreement was sufficient. 

NRDC disagreed —and on March 26th, a federal judge in Newark backed us up. In fact, Judge Joseph A. Greenaway, Jr. issued an opinion rejecting every one of PPG’s arguments.  The judge ruled that the lawsuit filed by NRDC and the other groups could proceed, and we are entitled to pursue our federal claims to force PPG to clean up all of the chromium contamination that might endanger public health and the environment. 

In particular, the judge recognized that the federal court may provide for stricter cleanup standards than the State can require.  This is a pivotal issue, because recent studies reveal State cleanup guidelines to allow levels of contamination to remain that are more than 10 times too high to protect public health.   

Now, the lawsuit will go on and the plaintiffs will have the opportunity to compel PPG to perform a cleanup that fully safeguards the health of Jersey City residents.