Eastman Kodak Co., reeling from revelations of chemical contamination at its manufacturing headquarters, says it has implemented worldwide policies aimed at placing environmental reponsibility as "a priority above priorities."

"The health and safety of our employees and neighbors worldwide is of paramount importance to the company," said Colby Chandler, Kodak chairman and chief executive officer.The sweeping six-point plan to prevent contamination and effectively deal with handling and storing chemicals followed by several weeks reports chemicals leaching from the Kodak Park manufacturing headquarters tainted groundwater in a nearby residential neighborhood.

"The environment is a priority above priorities," Chandler said. "Now more than ever, our care and investment in the environment represents a strong sense of corporate citizenship."

Federal and state authorities are in the midst of a criminal investigation of whether an unreported series of leaks and spills were linked to groundwater polluted by more than 55 chemicals.

As part of the newly outlined program, the company pledged to spend $40 million over the next three years to upgrade and replace storage tanks used to hold some of the estimated 500,000 chemicals used at Kodak Park.

Kodak said it would also reduce all chemical inventories, improve training, inspection and safety programs and form a senior level committee for oversight.

The policy was contained in a management letter addressed to Kodak employees worldwide and presented in a videotaped message to residents of the neighborhood affected by the contamination.

"It's still not a whole lot of comfort. We still have a problem here, and we don't think it's been addressed properly or in a timely manner," said Joe Polito, a member of Concerned Neighbors of Kodak Park.

Chandler ordered Kodak employees "to do what is right and responsible and keep Kodak's performance in step with the highest expectations."

Polito was unconvinced. "The neighbors are very anxious," he said. "We're under a lot of tension, and we don't know for sure what's there."