N.J. to receive $165M in Passaic River pollution settlements

TRENTON – New Jersey will receive $165 million as the result of two settlements involving pollution in the Passaic River, the Attorney General’s Office announced Friday.

The state will receive $130 million from defendants that include Spanish oil company Repsol as a result of one settlement, and in the other, the state will see $35.4 million from 261 so-called third-party defendants that include 70 towns and authorities, according to Acting Attorney General John Hoffman.

The state did not sue the third-parties; they were brought into the case by other defendants.

Hoffman’s office said the settlements OK’d by a Superior Court judge will allow the state Department of Environmental Protection to pursue claims against the principal defendant, Occidental Chemical, which has been accused of “intentionally dumping dioxin and other chemical waste into the Passaic River for decades.’’

“These are important settlements for the people of New Jersey and for our environment,” Hoffman said in a release.  “The residents of New Jersey should not be forced to bear the cost of cleaning up the Passaic River – a precious natural resource damaged by industrial polluters.

“In this case and every other case involving polluters who have violated the state’s environmental laws — regardless of how or when – it is our commitment to ensure  that those responsible for the contamination are held accountable.”

The AG’s office said that the Environmental Protection Agency is finalizing a detailed plan for  cleanup of the lower eight miles of the Passaic River, which is expected to be released in early 2014.

The DEP reiterated that harvesting blue claw crabs from the lower river and Newark Bay is prohibited because of the contamination.

N.J. to receive $165M in Passaic River pollution settlements