ELIZABETH – A Union County judge has ruled that the ExxonMobil Corporation is liable for polluting the waterways, wetlands and marshes on and near its former refinery sites in Linden and Bayonne.
Superior Court Judge Ross R. Anzaldi found that ExxonMobil had contaminated both sites through active disposal and accidental spills of hazardous substances in a ruling on part of a natural resource damage lawsuit filed on behalf of the state Department of Environmental Protection. The amount of damages owed by ExxonMobil will be determined at trial.
The judge found that the Bayway refinery in Linden discharged hazardous materials into Morses Creek for years when it was owned by ExxonMobil. This resulted in extensive hydrocarbon contamination of both the creek and the Arthur Kill, into which it flows. Former wetlands areas on and near the Linden site were also found to be contaminated with petroleum distillate residues.
The refinery is currently owned and operated by ConocoPhillips.
The judge determined that the Bayonne site was heavily contaminated with about 7 million gallons of oil in the soil and groundwater before cleanup operations begain there in 1991.
The oil company is involved in remediating both sites under a 1991 Administrative Consent Order, but the DEP filed its current lawsuit to get ExxonMobil to restore some of the on site natural resources and to compensate the public for loss of natural resources from the time pollution began until they are restored.
Anzaldi had previously ruled that ExxonMobil is liable under the state’s Spill Act for restoring natural resources at the two sites, and an appellate court determined that the state is entitled to loss-of-use damages under the law.
State Attorney General Anne Milgram said the court decision is important in the ongoing effort to hold polluters accountable through litigation.
“We remain committed to working with DEP to have those who damage our environment held legally responsible, and to obtain compensation for natural resources lost to contamination,” she said.
DEP Commissioner Lisa Jackson said the ruling affirms the public’s right to be compensated when polluters harm natural resources.
“Natural resource litigation is key to DEP’s mission resulting in more than $55 million for ecological enhancement projects and protection of more than 6,000 acres of land,” she said.
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