Known Carcinogen Spreading Through Groundwater in New Jersey, Hundreds at Risk

ted kerwin via Flickr/CC BY 2.0

Aaaaand here’s why we need good, well-upheld environmental regulations. An investigative report carried out by a small newspaper (and that’s why we need to keep those things around, too) has revealed that hexavalent chromium is spreading through the groundwater in Garfield, New Jersey, and is putting hundreds of people’s health at risk.

If that stuff sounds familiar, it might because it’s the same known carcinogen that Erin Brokovich famously brought to light when it was seeping through folks basements in the southern California town of Hinkley.

The New York Times has the details:

Three tons of the chemical leaked from a plant in 1983, but the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection allowed the cleanup by the electroplating factory responsible to stop after just 30 percent of the toxic substance had been removed. The neighborhood of 600 homes and businesses is now New Jersey’s newest Superfund site, and residents fear that the chromium, the same pollutant whose presence in groundwater was investigated by Erin Brockovich in Hinkley, Calif., may be infiltrating their basements and endangering their health.

Cases like this should serve as blunt reminders as why we really, really need the EPA to be on the job. An electroplating company, then the NJ EPA, each dropped the ball here, and now hundreds of people are potentially facing serious health woes. As in, they could end up with life-threatening cancer because a company didn’t take proper care to clean up its toxic mess and no one forced them to.

Every time I read a story like this, it a) pisses me off. The amount of leeway we allow industry in polluting and contaminating not just the natural environment, but the communities that people live in, is unacceptable. And b) perplexes me that the modern conservative movement continues to rally against protections that work to prevent cases like this.

Remember, some Tea Party congressmen and Fox News pundits want to roll back the kind of regulations that might save chemical companies a few bucks, but that protect people from irresponsible industry practices like dumping carcinogenic materials into places where it might contaminate groundwater. That’s not an exaggeration. Some of them are calling to abolish the EPA altogether, or to drastically reduce its funding.

We get reminder after reminder that we need an active agency working to curtail industrial malfeasance -- and still there are people out there who want to roll back environmental protections and give corporations free reign. It’s crazy.

Tags: New Jersey | Pollution

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