Court rules Hartz entitled to hearing in DEP dispute

TRENTON – A state appeals court has ruled in favor of a Hartz Mountain Industries subsidiary and against the Department of Environmental Protection in a case that goes back to the early 1990s in Bloomfield Township in Essex County.

In essence, Hartz has been fighting to keep DEP from reopening an investigation into possible groundwater contamination linked to the removal of a heating oil tank.

In 2002, DEP had issued a letter indicating no further action was required, but then sought to rescind that letter and oppose Hartz’s bid to contest the action, according to the ruling handed down today.

The court today sided with Hartz and ordered a hearing before an administrative law judge.

Hartz bought the property in 1965 that was designated as 60 W. State St., subdivided it in 1991, and leased portions to two businesses, a warehouse and a child development center.

Eventually, a warehouse was demolished and a heating oil tank was removed. During the process of excavation, petroleum products were observed in the soil and groundwater, according to the court ruling.

The site was cleaned up, remediated, and monitoring wells were installed.

Eventually, in a 1996 letter, DEP stated Hartz had complied with remedial requirements regarding 60 W. State St.

Later, DEP decided to revisit cases involving child care centers, including the Hartz case, and determined that there was contamination not addressed by Hartz and was actually at 50 W. State St., according to the court documents.

A company called Crompton Colors had leased warehouse property from Hartz from 1991 to 2001.

Hartz argued that DEP had no authority to reopen a case for 50 W. State St. or to order further study at the adjacent site, 60 W. State.

DEP tried to oppose Hartz’ bid to disassociate itself from actions of other companies, arguing they were all obligated to address all contamination.

DEP has also disputed Hartz’ contention that any contamination at 50 W. State was from another site over one half mile away.

The court today ruled that Hartz is entitled to a hearing in which it can challenge the DEP attempt to rescind the earlier order.

Court rules Hartz entitled to hearing in DEP dispute