Historic $393M Settlement Proposed Over 'Forever Chemical' Pollution in New Jersey
WEST DEPTFORD, NJ - Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin and Commissioner of Environmental Protection Shawn M. LaTourette today revealed a proposed $393 million settlement with Solvay Specialty Polymers USA, LLC over the pervasive pollution in and around its facility in West Deptford, Gloucester County.
The settlement, the largest of its kind in New Jersey, centers on the contamination of the area with per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), also known as "forever chemicals."
PFAS are manmade compounds notable for their resistance to environmental degradation and their ability to accumulate in the human body. With applications in products like Teflon® and Scotchgard® for their oil and water-repellent properties, these compounds have been linked to serious health effects including diminished vaccine response.
In what Attorney General Platkin called a "historic step," the proposed settlement will require Solvay to shoulder financial commitments to remediate the contamination, upgrade public water systems to remove PFAS from drinking water, investigate and address the impacts on local water supplies, and compensate the public for the harm done to natural resources.
"For years, corporations, including Solvay, have put financial gain over our clean drinking water and the health of millions of people," said Attorney General Platkin. "This settlement sends a clear message to any corporation that exposes our New Jersey communities to PFAS toxins or injures our natural resources with any hazardous substance: you will face consequences for your actions. You have our promise.”
Commissioner LaTourette added that the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is "determined to hold those who discharge PFAS responsible for the havoc wrought by their forever chemicals."
The Solvay West Deptford site has been operational for over 30 years, manufacturing industrial plastics, coatings, and other chemicals using PFAS-containing process aids. The facility discharged various PFAS along with other contaminants into the surrounding environment.
Legal action began in March 2019 when the DEP issued a directive to Solvay and other companies to address their role in PFAS contamination. Solvay did not fully comply, leading to the current proposed settlement.
If approved by the court following a public comment period, the settlement will become a binding Judicial Consent Order, holding Solvay to its commitments to remediate the contamination, limit ongoing discharges, and compensate for past damage.
The DEP expects to allocate a portion of the settlement towards treating PFAS impacts to certain public water systems and private drinking water wells, even where the source of contamination is disputed. The affected wells are in areas including Bellmawr, Brooklawn, East Greenwich, Gloucester City, Gibbstown, Mount Royal, Paulsboro, Westville, Woodbury, West Deptford, Logan, Deptford, Greenwich, and Swedesboro.
In addition, Solvay will compensate the public for natural resource damages to the tune of $75 million, intended to fund restoration projects in collaboration with affected communities. Solvay will also pay $3.7 million to the DEP for its past direct costs in addressing the contamination.
Further details can be accessed on the DEP's dedicated website containing information about the proposed settlement, Solvay, and the affected wells, as well as a platform for public comments. The public has 60 days to submit comments following the official proposal in the New Jersey Register on August 7.