This story was updated on Aug. 23 to reflect additional comments from Honeywell spokesperson Victoria Streitfeld.
Throughout the month of July, Honeywell International, Inc. has been continuing its cleanup of chromium ore, a known carcinogen, to prevent it from leaching into the soil along Bayonne’s western waterfront.
Honeywell acquired Mutual Chemical, one of a few companies that manufactured chrome in Hudson County. Mutual Chemical stopped its chrome production in Jersey City in 1954.
After it was revealed that chromium ore, a byproduct of chrome production, was a health hazard, Honeywell reached a settlement to remediate 100 acres of land in Jersey City the company aquired from Mutual Chemical that was contaminated by chromium ore. They also covered the approximate $400 million cost associated with it.
The cleanup also was extended into portions of Bayonne following additional court cases. While Honeywell never produced chrome, various judges ruled that the onus was on Honeywell to remediate areas affected by the company it bought.
It appears that the environmental remediation efforts have an end in sight in Bayonne. But the work in Jersey City will likely be several years longer, according to a master schedule.
Inheriting Mutual Chemical’s mess
Honeywell and two other companies, PPG Industries Inc., and Occidental Chemical Corp., originally had to contribute $5 million each toward cleanup, which would have otherwise been a burden on taxpayers.
By 2008, Honeywell became responsible for all chromium remediation on land the company owned in Jersey City in a lawsuit filed by the Hackensack Riverkeeper and Interfaith Community Organization. Other court cases ruled that the company had to remediate a pipeline along Bayonne’s western waterfront, as well.
PPG and Occidental Chemical Corp, both former manufacturers of chromium in Hudson County, each have ongoing cleanups throughout the county, as well.
Hexavalent chromium, a byproduct of chromium production, is a known carcinogen. After most of the 20th century was spent producing chromium, a byproduct of its production was deemed to be carcinogenic. By then, hexavalent chromium had leached into the soil through pipelines in Bayonne and Jersey City.
Over roughly a decade since cleanup began, numerous local officials and heads of environmental groups had positive things to say to The Hudson Reporter and other members of the press, reporting that the company had held up its end its end of the bargain, and that the cleanup had been progressing as the affected communities had hoped.
Contaminated land was widespread, mostly in Jersey City. Some of the land had already been developed by the time remediation was mandated, and had to be cleaned up.
Other portions of the land were rendered unusable until they were deemed completely safe.
What’s left of the cleanup in Bayonne?
After years of remediation to ensure that chromium was properly removed from affected areas, the process is ongoing. In Bayonne, all of the chromium was located along a pipeline along the western waterfront.
The first section of the pipeline, which ran from 48th Street to the New Jersey Turnpike overpass, was completed in 2017.
In 2018, a section that ran from 37th Street to 32nd Street was completed.
Currently, the area being cleared is at the western end of 19th, 20th, and 21st streets, adjacent to 16th Street Park.
According to Victoria Streitfeld, a Honeywell spokesperson, the cleanup efforts are on track to be complete as early as the end of September.
Honeywell has been installing caps over sections of the sewer pipeline, to prevent chromium ore from leaching into the soil. Bayonne officials said that no residents’ drinking water will be affected by remediation efforts for the entirety of the cleanup, as the pipeline is separate from Suez-Bayonne’s tap water lines.
During ongoing and future remediation, the air will be monitored during construction activities. Measures will ensure that chromium ore dust doesn’t spread.
The companies that processed chromium mapped the sites that were affected with carcinogenic material, helping to ensure a thorough cleanup.
The most recent master schedule for all the Honeywell-assigned sites suggests that the work in Jersey is due for completion at some point within the next few years.