Chemical company W.R. Grace operated a plant in Hamilton, New Jersey that manufactured insulation, fireproofing, and other products using vermiculite ore mined by W.R. Grace in Libby, Montana. The vermiculite, however, was known to contain tremolite, a dangerous form of asbestos.
The Hamilton plant was one of several similar plants around the country that received and processed the tainted vermiculite. Since the plant closed in the 1990s, many of its former employees have been diagnosed with, or died from, various diseases commonly caused by asbestos exposure. According to the 2000 U.S. Census, about 1,700 residents live within a half-mile radius of the plant. A recent federal report shines a light on the haphazard regulation that existed at this plant and the alarming extent to which its employees were exposed to asbestos. Some key facts about this plant, many of which have been revealed by the federal report, are that:
- W.R. Grace shipped more than 204,281 tons of potentially asbestos-tainted minerals to its Hamilton plant between 1966 and 1988, but environmental regulators did not test soil at the location until 2000.
- In 2003, the EPA began a cleanup of the plant and an adjacent property.
- Approximately 9,000 tons of soil were removed in the cleanup process.
- Most of the community had no idea any investigation of the plant or cleanup was taking place until after the first phase of cleanup was complete.
- The report, which reveals the secretive cleanup of the site, has prompted a renewed call for legislation to improve EPA community notifications.
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