Attorney general, DEP file 6 new lawsuits targeting polluters

TRENTON, NJ — As part of their ongoing environmental justice initiative, Attorney Gen. Gurbir Grewal and Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Catherine McCabe announced Oct. 25 the filing of six new enforcement actions targeting polluters in minority and lower-income communities across New Jersey.

Filed in Superior Courts around the state, the six lawsuits focus on sites in Newark, Trenton, East Orange, Kearny and Camden. The complaints describe a wide range of environmental misconduct, including companies that have allegedly released hazardous and toxic substances into the surrounding soil and water, and individuals who allegedly allowed massive amounts of waste to pile up in a residential neighborhood.

“Today’s six enforcement actions are just the latest salvo in our ongoing efforts to stand up for environmental justice and to fight for communities across the state that have been ignored in the past,” Grewal said. “Our message to polluters is once again clear: You cannot pollute the state’s air, water or land and get away with it under our watch. No matter whether a company is releasing hazardous substances into the soil or an individual is maintaining an illegal dump in a residential neighborhood, we will take them to court. That is the kind of environmental commitment that all of our communities deserve.”

“This administration is committed to environmental justice and making our state stronger and fairer, neighborhood by neighborhood,” McCabe said. “It is no secret that residents of our urban communities have had to bear a disproportionate burden from many sources of pollution. Together with other DEP initiatives, today’s legal actions help ensure that contaminated and long-abandoned properties are improved for the benefit of the local community. Cleaner environments create stronger communities and I am proud to partner with Gov. Murphy and Attorney Gen. Grewal to fulfill the promise of greater environmental justice across New Jersey.”

Today’s actions involve the following locations: 461-491 Fourth St. in Newark, site of the Nanes Metal Finishing Company; 723-725 Chestnut St. in Trenton, site of Sainte Marie Dry Cleaners; 1474 West State St. in Trenton, site of Schofield Cleaners; 260-268 Chestnut St. in Camden, site of significant illegal dumping; 34-38 Stover Ave. in Kearny, site of Auto Scrap; and 66-68 North Park St. in East Orange, site of Gas Mart.

Three of the suits — the action in Newark and both lawsuits in Trenton — involve companies that allegedly released hazardous substances at their properties and refused to clean them up. For example, from 1966 to 1994, Nanes Metal Finishing operated a metals finishing, assembly and production business in Newark. In 2000, DEP discovered a number of chemicals used in metals finishing and production operations in the soil and the groundwater at the site. The discharges included trichloroethylene and perchloroethylene; exposure to these chemicals has been linked to kidney dysfunction, respiratory tract irritation, and cognitive and neurological effects.

Although DEP stepped in to install systems that keep the workers at that site safe, Nanes reportedly never finished the required remediation of the soil and ground water — despite an order from DEP to do so. This recent complaint thus alleges violations of the Spill Act and Water Pollution Control Act, as well as unjust enrichment and creation of a public nuisance. The lawsuit seeks an order requiring the defendants to investigate the extent of the contamination, to clean up the polluted property and to reimburse the state for more than $500,000 that DEP has spent on remediation to date.