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Pollution

Judge rules against PPG in chromium cleanup lawsuit

by Craig Bettenhausen
May 9, 2020 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 98, ISSUE 18

 

09818-polcon5-canal.jpg
Credit: Chromium Cleanup Partnership
From 1905 until 1963, this plant in Jersey City, New Jersey, processed chromite ore into sodium bichromate for tanning, chrome, and other products.

The US government is not liable for the cost of cleaning up chromium contamination related to a plant in New Jersey, an appeals court ruled last week. The decision leaves PPG Industries, a maker of coatings, paints, and specialty chemicals, on the hook for the remediation, which the firm has been working on since the 1980s. Hexavalent chromium compounds, including the sodium dichromate produced at the plant, are carcinogenic and can be corrosive. PPG argued that the government should pay for cleanup because it controlled all US chromium production during World War I and World War II. The court rejected that argument on the grounds that the government did not make process or waste-disposal decisions at the site. The chromium contamination stems from a chromite ore processing plant in Jersey City that PPG bought in 1954. Chromium-contaminated waste from the plant was stored in piles outside and used as fill dirt in construction projects around the city, giving rise to multiple routes for human exposure.

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