GARFIELD, N.J. (CBS 2) — Residents in one section of Garfield, New Jersey, have suspected for years that their basements are contaminated with a deadly substance.

Now, the federal government says their worst fears we’re right – they’re living in a toxic town.

Robert Pollack only goes into the basement of his home on Palisade Avenue in Garfield for emergencies. That’s why he only showed CBS 2’s Christine Sloan pictures of it on Friday.

“You see that yellowish foam that’s going on top of the water? That’s the chromium,” Pollack explained as he showed the photos. “I hate to go in there. The smell under there is unbelievable.”

The Environmental Protection Agency has just added the neighborhood, where Pollack’s rental and 700 other homes sit, to the nation’s toxic waste sites.

Investigators have found cancer-causing hexavalent chromium in 13 basements.

Pollack admitted he was worried about his health.

“I’ve been in that basement changing sump pumps when it rains — when we get the flooding,” he said. “My good friend Mike, he had passed away. He had stage four when he found out. Whether it’s from being in the basement or what — who knows?”

An EPA spokesperson said the investigation started several years ago when a sister agency discovered a significant amount of cancer cases in the community. That’s when CBS 2 spoke to Jenny Coulter.

“Five members of my family have either died or contracted cancer,” Coulter said at the time.

Many residents in the neighborhood have been told not to go into their basements, especially those where chromium is oozing from the ground.

Environmental officials believe the deadly form of chromium is seeping into basements, where residents can ingest it by coming in contact with water.

They are investigating to see if the contamination came from a 1983 leak at the E.C. Electroplating, Inc., which is now closed. The EPA says it is working with residents to clean the mess up from the ground up.

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