$14 Million Settlement Reached in Montvale Groundwater Contamination Case


$14 million settlement represents one of the most significant single-site groundwater natural resource damages recoveries in New Jersey

In a significant legal victory, New Jersey has secured a $14 million settlement over groundwater contamination claims in Montvale, Bergen County.

MONTVALE, NJ - Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin and Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Shawn M. LaTourette announced today the resolution of a natural resource damages (NRD) lawsuit against several companies for the contamination of groundwater with trichloroethylene (TCE), a known carcinogen. This settlement, one of the largest single-site groundwater NRD recoveries in New Jersey's history, follows a consent judgment entered by the Superior Court, which avoids the need for a trial.

The 2019 lawsuit targeted the Handy & Harman Defendants, who operated an etching and surfacing facility at 20 Craig Road in Montvale from approximately 1966 to 1985, and Cycle Chem, Inc., the supplier and transporter of the TCE used at the facility. Although the companies have not admitted fault, they agreed to compensate the state for damages to natural resources and reimburse costs related to past cleanup efforts.

“The well-being of our communities depends on access to safe and uncontaminated water,” said Attorney General Platkin. “Once again, our message is clear: We will pursue repayment and repair when corporate actions injure our natural resources. No one is above the law when environmental damages are at stake.”

Under the settlement:

  • The Handy & Harman Defendants will pay $10.4 million for damages to natural resources and an additional $93,300 to cover past NJDEP cleanup and removal costs.
  • Cycle Chem will contribute $3.5 million, including more than $3.46 million towards natural resource damages and $31,100 for past cleanup and removal efforts.

“This $14 million settlement is significant not only for resolving our claims for the groundwater contamination wrought on Montvale and the surrounding area by these defendants but for demonstrating to corporate polluters everywhere and the public that our Department of Environmental Protection, in partnership with the Office of the Attorney General, will not waver in seeking justice for natural resource damages,” said Commissioner LaTourette.

The contamination resulted in the closure of nearby drinking water wells and significant environmental damage, including a persistent groundwater plume of TCE. Remediation efforts are currently underway, led by Handy & Harman, to reduce the plume's size and mitigate potential impacts on drinking water and air quality in surrounding areas.

The remediation plan includes active groundwater recovery, hydraulic control, and a treatment system to remove volatile organic compounds. Additionally, monitored natural attenuation is being used to observe natural processes reducing contaminant levels over time. Carbon filters have been installed in on-site buildings to prevent vapor intrusion, with ongoing monitoring to assess the need for similar systems in off-site structures.

The DEP highlighted the collaborative efforts of the Contaminated Site Remediation and Redevelopment program and the Office of Natural Resource Restoration, which was instrumental in determining the incurred costs and overseeing the settlement's documentation and assessment.

This resolution marks a critical step forward in protecting public health and restoring natural resources affected by long-term industrial pollution in Montvale.

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