The Jersey Journal (Jersey City)
November 11, 2005


By Alexander Lane, Newhouse News Service

A chemical engineer at the [New Jersey] Department of Environmental
Protection accused her own agency yesterday of failing to protect
people in Hudson and Essex counties from toxic chromium, and called on
the federal government to step in and do the job.

In an effort coordinated with environmental activists, Zoe Kelman said
the DEP had approved cut-rate cleanups on dozens of the 200 or so
chromium sites on Hudson's Gold Coast and elsewhere.

"It's like a huge experiment and we don't know the consequences," said
Kelman, who has worked for the state since 1988. "This substance is
second to dioxin in terms of its cancer potency."

Kelman first publicly criticized the agency in June. She went beyond
that yesterday, releasing a scathing memo she sent to superiors and
calling on the Environmental Protection Agency to examine whether
hexavalent chromium -- the most dangerous type -- could escape the
caps covering it at sites where homes, businesses and even a golf
course have been built.

DEP Commissioner Bradley Campbell said he had cracked down
aggressively on chromium polluters, even suing them and taking the
unusual step of ordering the DEP to conduct two cleanups itself
recently. He stood behind the cleanup standards and methods the agency
had approved at redevelopment sites.

"The weight of opinion at this point is that they are adequately
protective," Campbell said. "We always welcome any kind of EPA
scrutiny of our cleanups or our cleanup actions, just as we actively
make sure theirs meet our standards."

EPA spokeswoman Mary Mears said Kelman's letter had been forwarded to
the agency's hazardous-waste branch. She said it would take some time
to respond.

Waste from three North Jersey chromium refineries was used as fill
dirt for decades in Hudson and Essex, leaving close to 200 known
hazardous sites. In recent years this urban real estate has become
increasingly valuable, prompting developers to seek DEP permission to
cap the chromium and build on the sites.

Marquee redevelopment projects such as the Port Imperial, a luxury
condominium complex in Weehawken, and the Liberty National Golf Course
and Society Hill condominiums, both in Jersey City, have been
constructed on or near high concentrations of capped chromium.

Journal staff writer Ken Thorbourne contributed to this report.

Copyright 2005 The Jersey Journal