Court rules Newark company liable for cleanup in section of Passaic River

TRENTON – A Newark plant will have to pay for the cleanup costs of chemicals it discharged into the Passaic River.

Superior Court Judge Sebastian P. Lombardi, sitting in Essex County, ruled that Tierra Solutions Inc., which owns the site of the former Diamond Alkali/Diamond Shamrock plant on Lister Avenue in Newark, is liable under the New Jersey Spill Compensation and Control Act for past and future costs of cleaning up a contaminated section of the lower Passaic River.

The Department of Environmental Protection said the river’s sediments are polluted with a form of dioxin known as 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzene (TCDD), as well as DDT, among other chemicals like Agent Orange that have resulted in a decades-old ban on consuming crabs from the lower Passaic River and Newark Bay complex.

“Cleaning up the Lower Passaic is very important to the public health and safety of residents living in the many communities located along the river,” DEP Commissioner Bob Martin said in a statement today. “These rulings affirm New Jersey’s firm stance that companies sued by the state must accept responsibility for the pollution they and their predecessors caused.

“The pollution of the Passaic River is widespread and will be extremely costly to clean up. These costs must be borne by those companies that assumed responsibility for their properties, not by the taxpayers of New Jersey.”

Jeff Tittel, executive director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, also hailed the decision.

“This is another important victory in the cleanup of the Passaic River and the state now can vigorously go after Tierra Solutions for the cleanup of the Passaic,” Tittel said in a statement. “They now have the authority and jurisdiction to get the river cleaned up without having to wait for the EPA.”

The court ruled that the company is liable under the New Jersey Spill Compensation and Control Act, which states that all past and future cleanup and removal costs associated with hazardous discharges be footed by the company that released the chemicals. The former plants at that

property manufactured pesticides and herbicides from 1951 to 1969, according to DEP.

Occidental Chemical Corp. purchased Diamond Shamrock Chemical Company and merged the companies in the 1980s. Tierra acquired title to the property in 1986 and still owns the site, according to the DEP.

A trial to determine how much the companies will pay for the cleanup of the discharged chemicals from the plant is expected to be held next year, according to the DEP. However, the federal Environmental Protection Agency estimates the cleanup costs for the 8-mile stretch of the river that is contaminated could range between $1 billion to $4 billion.

Tierra, under EPA supervision, is set to begin work on removing some of the most highly contaminated sediments in areas near the plant, the DEP said.

The EPA recently announced it would target two river locations in the Ironbound section of Newark for removal of 40,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment beginning in spring of 2012.

To read Judge Lombardi’s rulings, visit: https://nyoobserver.files.wordpress.com/2011/09/tierra1109021.pdf

and https://nyoobserver.files.wordpress.com/2011/09/occidental1109021.pdf

 

Court rules Newark company liable for cleanup in section of Passaic River