AG, DEP file suits against alleged polluters

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HILLSIDE / ELIZABETH, NJ — Attorney General Gurbir Grewal and Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Catherine McCabe announced Aug. 27 the filing of 12 new environmental enforcement actions targeting polluters across New Jersey whose actions threaten the health and safety of residents in minority and lower-income communities in Newark, Orange, South Orange, Paterson, Jersey City, Elizabeth, Hillside, Fairton and Upper Deerfield Township.

These lawsuits are a part of the state’s comprehensive justice agenda to address harms disproportionately affecting the public and environmental health of New Jersey’s low-income, non–English-speaking and minority residents. They come as New Jersey residents confront the COVID-19 pandemic, a public health crisis that has unduly burdened these communities.

Many of the properties that are the subject of these complaints have pollutants known to contribute to health problems, including respiratory-tract irritation, chronically reduced lung function, kidney problems, neurological disorders and certain cancers, which may only exacerbate COVID-19 risks.

“In New Jersey, we’re committed to our pathbreaking approach to environmental enforcement, which ensures that our efforts to clean up our environment will also serve our comprehensive justice agenda for low-income communities and communities of color,” Grewal said. “Today’s 12 lawsuits, filed in cities and towns across our state, are a reflection of that commitment to environmental justice principles. The scourge of COVID-19 has put a harsh spotlight on the way environmental injustices affect our basic health, and we’re going to do the hard work necessary to protect communities from dumping, contamination and other illegal activities. The message to New Jersey residents should be clear: Everyone, and I really mean everyone, deserves to breathe clean air and live in a safe environment.”

“The actions the DEP is taking today exemplify the Murphy administration’s deep commitment to principles of environmental justice and equity that strengthen all of our communities, especially those most vulnerable to environmental harm,” McCabe said. “Together, we are holding accountable those who, by design or circumstance, disproportionately harm the environment and communities of our low-income and minority neighbors. Today’s lawsuits complement the many ways that we pursue environmental justice, standing with every New Jersey community and for the shared natural resources that unite us.”

The complaints filed on Aug. 27 seek to address a host of environmental threats across the state in low-income and minority communities, and are brought under New Jersey’s Spill Compensation and Control Act, Water Pollution Control Act, Air Pollution Control Act, Solid Waste Management Act, Industrial Site Recovery Act, and Brownfield and Contaminated Site Remediation Act.

The 12 cases involve a broad range of harmful contamination, including such hazardous substances as arsenic; copper; lead; petroleum hydrocarbons; gasoline; waste motor oil; polychlorinated biphenyls; oxides of nitrogen; volatile organic compounds, including trichloroethylene, or TCE, and perchloroethylene, or PCE; and semivolatile organic compounds.

The complaints seek a variety of remedies, including cleanup of contaminated properties and compliance with all outstanding DEP orders, payment of damages and penalties, reimbursement to the state for cleanup costs expended to date and, in certain instances, natural resource damages.

Among these actions are the following:

• 1576 Maple/Road Runner Fuel, Hillside: elevated levels of dry-cleaning chemicals PCE and TCE in the groundwater and indoor air and an unremoved underground storage tank system and gasoline discharge contamination. Defendants include Irfan Hassan; Little Mason Properties LLC; Astro Cleaners; 1576 Maple Avenue Associates LLC; and Road Runner Fuel Services LLC.

• Elizabeth Bolt and Nut, Elizabeth: lead and petroleum contamination from industrial processes spanning decades. Defendants include Elizabeth Bolt & Nut Manufacturing Corporation, the Estate of Rose Haskell, Stemple Corporation, and current owner Aquaserv Bottled Water Service Inc.

Photos Courtesy of OAG