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Raritan Bay pollution lawsuit targets 8 companies, state agencies

Source:, April 16, 2009
By: Laura Craven

Two environmental groups will announce today that they plan to sue eight public and private entities over pollution in and around Raritan Bay.
The nonprofits, Edison Wetlands Association and NY/NJ Baykeeper, said they have sent letters of intent to NL Industries Inc.; NL Environmental Management Services Inc.; Sayreville Economic and Redevelopment Agency; O’Neill Properties Group; Sayreville Seaport Associates; Middlesex County; the Turnpike Authority; and New Jersey Department of Transportation.
“It’s been far too long that toxic pollution in the Raritan has threatened the safety and health of the families who use the river,” said Robert Spiegel, executive director of the EWA. “Our legal action will accomplish what the DEP repeatedly failed to do — hold those who poisoned New Jersey’s longest river accountable for their actions.”
The nonprofits maintain the contamination comes from National Lead, which operated on a 400-acre site in Sayreville from 1935 to 1982, and from inefficient storm water programs run by transportation authorities.
The nonprofits said the state DOT and Turnpike Authority do not do anything to reduce the sediment contamination, which eventually flows into the river.
The National Lead site is surrounded on three sides by the Raritan River, including the crossings of the Garden State Parkway, Route 9 and Route 35. It is currently being redeveloped by O’Neill Properties Group.
The case is being handled for the nonprofits by Terris, Pravlik & Millian, LLP, a public interest law firm that has dealt with environmental issues, including the chromium suits against Honeywell in Jersey City.
Janice Gorin, an attorney representing the nonprofits, said they have not heard from any of the parties to which the letters were sent.
The mayor of Sayreville, who was notified by a reporter of the letters of intent, thought the case seemed misguided. “It’s interesting all the lawsuits are on the Sayreville side. There are a number of towns along the Raritan River. Why are we being singled out?” Sayreville Mayor Kennedy O’Brien said. “This is a nebulous type of lawsuit. It’s pick-on-Sayreville day.”
Joe Orlando, a spokesman for the Turnpike Authority said he didn’t receive the letter and could not comment until his agency received official notice.
Jonathan Jaffe, a spokesman for O’Neill Properties Group, said the organization was unaware of the letter and declined to comment.
The filing seeks to stop the discharge of hazardous substances and remediate sediments that present a risk to human health and the environment. The letter said the entities have violated the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act and the Clean Water Act by polluting the sediments of the Raritan River from the National Lead site and nearby highways in Sayreville.
The DOT and the Turnpike Authority, accused of violating the Clean Water Act, have 60 days to respond to the letter before formal legal action is taken. The Clean Water Act, said Gorin, states that entities cannot discharge pollution into the water without a permit. Gorin said the DOT and the Turnpike Authority are not complying with their permit.
Gorin said all eight entities are in violation of the RCRA, which she said allows citizens to bring a suit if there is an endangerment to human health and the environment. According to this act, she said the entities have 90 days to respond before formal legal action is taken.
“Although the extent of the contamination has been known for years, nothing has been done to remedy the endangerment,” she said. “We would like to accomplish remediation of the Raritan River and sources that may contributing to the problem.”

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