7 Environmental Lawsuits, Defendants Ignored NJ DEP Orders for Years
The State of New Jersey announced environment enforcement actions, or lawsuits, against seven New Jersey businesses over the use of chemical pollutants that have contaminated separate, unrelated sites in Newark, Linden, Ewing, Rahway, Elmwood Park Borough, Camden, and Middlesex Borough.
Six of the lawsuits filed today center on contaminated sites in communities considered “overburdened” under New Jersey’s Environmental Justice Law.
The six suits address a variety of environmental health hazards including contamination of soil and groundwater, as well as the potential for harmful chemical vapors.
Avenue P, Newark
The state's complaint centers on a contaminated industrial property spanning the 300-and-400 blocks of Avenue P in Newark near the Essex County Correctional Facility.
According to the lawsuit, soil and groundwater at the site is polluted with hazardous substances like PCBs, benzene, toluene, xylenes, TCE, PCE, naphthalene, arsenic, lead, and mercury.
Historically the site was owned by various metal smelting and refining operators. The property was later acquired by a waste hauling business that used it as an illegal dump site for hazardous waste collected from Sun Chemical Corporation and two paint company clients – Benjamin Moore & Company and Sherwin-Williams Company.
The lawsuit names as defendants current owner Ootzie Propeties-NWK, LLC and its corporate principal Anthony Cerone, as well as D&J Trucking Waste & Co., Benjamin Moore & Company, Sherwin Williams Company, Sun Chemical Corporation, and Ecobat Resources New York (formerly Revere Smelting & Refining Corporation).
B&S Oil Corporation, Rahway
The suit claims there were four gas spills at the Lawrence Street gas station in Rahway City that contaminated the ground soil while the service station was still in business.
Exposure to gasoline and diesel fuel can cause dizziness, nausea, harm to internal organs, and damage to cognitive functions.
In 2015, the owners and operators of the service station entered into an agreement with the NJ DEP whereby they accepted responsibility for remediating the contamination. To date, the complaint alleges, they have failed to do so.
Tremley Point Road, Linden
The complaint seeks $597,000 in fines for illegal dumping at a former coal ash disposal site earmarked for redevelopment on Tremley Point Road in Linden.
According to the lawsuit, the defendants (D.T. Allen Contracting Co., Dredge Management Association, and owners/manager Greg and Dan Allen) violated the Solid Waste Management Act by dumping large amounts of contaminates at the 4050 Tremley Point Road site between 2015 and 2018.
The site was earmarked for redevelopment into a “clean” fill for use in capping and containing mounds of coal ash once disposed of on the property. Instead, the defendants allegedly dumped massive amounts of contaminated fill at the site.
In 2018, the DEP and the Defendants signed an agreement meant to resolve the matter and clean the site. However, today’s complaint alleges the defendants subsequently sold the property and walked away without meeting their remediation obligation.
In 2021 the DEP issued a “formal Demand for Stipulated Penalties” seeking the $597k, but the defendants, to date, have never even responded.
S. Burger Wire, Middlesex Borough
This four-count complaint focuses on soil and groundwater contamination at an industrial property on Lincoln Boulevard in Middlesex Borough. The complaint lists two defendants – 277 Lincoln Holdings, LLC and 277 Lincoln Boulevard, LLC.
From about 1956 to 2003 S. Burger Wire and Tubing, Inc. manufactured fine round metal wire and tubing on the Lincoln Blvd. site. Soil and groundwater contamination were detected on the site in 2003, 2004, and 2005 when 277 Lincoln Holdings, LLC. Entered into a Remediation Agreement with the NJ DEP and purchased the property.
In 2018, a vapor intrusion evaluation of neighboring properties discovered traces of health hazards like PCE and TCE in soil gas vapor samples taken at a nearby home.
The lawsuit alleges Lincoln Holdings, despite their agreement with the NJ DEP, has failed to properly clean up the site.
Sigma Realty, Ewing
In 1993, Sigma Realty purchased a former gas station on North Olden Avenue in Ewing that Sigma now operates as a strip mall. Despite their obligation, Sigma never addressed petroleum product contamination on site caused by five leaking underground storage tanks. These leaking tanks, containing leaded gasoline and oil, were left to slowly contaminate the soil and groundwater.
The lawsuit notes that the tainted property is located near a high school, a childcare center, and a creek, presenting both environmental and public health concerns that have not yet been investigated.
Today’s lawsuit seeks to enforce a “Final Order” it issued against Sigma in 2020. The lawsuit would require Sigma to investigate and clean up the North Olden Avenue site and pay outstanding fees for failure to take immediate action and failure to comply with the DEPs Final Order issued in 2020.
Hans Family Cleaners, Elmwood Park Borough
This complaint concerns a PCE-contaminated property on Grove Street in Elmwood Park which, over a period of three decades, was the site of three different dry-cleaning businesses.
Testing of indoor air, soil, and groundwater revealed excessive concentrations of PCE. In 2021, the DEP issued a “formal directive” to the responsible parties demanding they clean up and remove the hazardous substances from the site. According to today's complaint, none of the defendants have complied and the PCE contamination remains.
Blueberry Bill Farms, Hammonton
The seventh lawsuit filed today centers on Blueberry Bill Farms, a blueberry farm and processing operation in the town of Hammonton, Atlantic County, that employs migrant farm workers who live on-site.
The suit alleges the farm’s owner has not complied with the NJ Department of Environmental Protection’s (NJ DEP) orders to stop using “four substandard, unsafe drinking water wells on the property,” and alleges the owner is using two unpermitted septic systems.
Along with the lawsuit against Blueberry Bill Farms, the state has filed for an order forcing the farm owner to take immediate action – shut down or stop using wells for potable purposes, such as drinking water.
The question you may be asking is: Why is no one listening to the NJ DEP?
All seven of these lawsuits have one thing in common, no one is listening to the NJ DEP and the court-approved orders they “enforce.”
All seven of these lawsuits today are a second attempt at making bad actors pay for their harmful business practices.
Will it take the second time around?