Fight Over Cleaning Contaminated Jersey City Site

Mayor Steve Fulop wants to stop PPG from working on a site contaminated with chromium.

By David Cruz

The trucks were rolling again today at the site of the former PPG factory in Jersey City’s Lafayette section, after a judge ruled that the city couldn’t stop work from going forward just because it didn’t agree with how the final cleanup was going to be accomplished.

This site has been contaminated with chromium for decades. PPG has agreed to clean it up, but the city says the company wants to leave a gravel pit in its wake, something which a new developer would have to remediate.

At a press conference last week, Mayor Steve Fulop said the company was reneging on a 2009 consent decree that ordered the cleanup. The mayor says PPG’s fix doesn’t meet the city’s needs or match what the court intended.

“The way to mitigate that concern from the city’s standpoint is to anticipate that there’s gonna be utilities necessary here — that’s sewer, that’s electric — and to provide that stuff now, at least the framework, so a developer can come in here and not rupture any sort of remediation that’s happened. Absent that, this property is basically a useless, 20-acre piece of property in the heart of the city,” Fulop said.

The PPG site — which the city envisions as part if a new 100-acre mixed use development — is near a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood and adjacent to a new park the city is building. Councilwoman Diane Coleman says residents here have waited for more than a generation to reclaim this part of their neighborhood.

“I know that it’s been over 20 years and I can’t imagine that an organization that’s worth billions and billions of dollars would not invest in revitalizing a community that they destroyed in the first place. I can’t imagine. That tells me something about PPG,” Coleman said.

PPG — which did over $30 billion in business last year — says the designated redeveloper, a company that includes former Gov. Jim Florio and former DEP Commissioner Chris Daggett, has agreed to much of the work the city is asking for.

A Statement released by the company says, “As PPG continues to have uninterrupted access into the foreseeable future, we will continue to work diligently toward completing the remediation and making the property available for redevelopment to the benefit of the entire community,” said a spokesman today.

“They dump it in the ‘hood because they feel like this doesn’t matter, these lives over here really don’t matter. They won’t dump it in the suburbs,” said Jersey City resident Roger Greene.

“We’re gonna have to go through the court, and it’s gonna be a long process, but we’re determined to make sure that this gets done properly,” Fulop said.

A judge has set a May 1 date for further arguments. In the meantime, cleanup goes on, good for the environment perhaps, but not good enough for a city eager to leave its industrial past permanently buried.

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