Environmental Groups Appeal Decision On Sayreville Property Cleanup

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SAYREVILLE — NY/NJ Baykeeper and Edison Wetlands Association filed a notice of appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit challenging a decision by United States District Court Judge Joel A. Pisano dismissing the environmental organizations’ lawsuit to clean up sediment contamination in the Raritan River in Sayreville.

NY/NJ Baykeeper and Edison Wetlands Association filed suit last year against current and prior owners of the former NL Industries site in Sayreville, a 440-acre property where titanium dioxide pigments were manufactured between 1935 and 1982 for use in paints, paper, cosmetics, and other products.

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The complaint charged that the defendants are in violation of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act and the Clean Water Act because past and present pollution from the NL Industries site has contaminated the Raritan River with arsenic, copper, lead, nickel, and zinc which pose an imminent and substantial endangerment to human health and the environment.  The complaint also alleged that the New Jersey Transit Authority and the New Jersey Department of Transportation are in violation of the federal laws because highways under the control of the state agencies are contributing to the contamination in the river in the vicinity of the NL Industries site.

On May 27, Pisano dismissed the lawsuit, concluding that the courts should abstain from interfering with the technical expertise of the New Jersey Department of Environmental (“NJDEP”) Protection, which is overseeing the remediation of former NL Industries site.

The appeal will challenge Pisano’s conclusion that NJDEP is already involved in the remediation of the Raritan River, according to the environmental groups.  Although NJDEP has been overseeing the remediation of the NL Industries site on land for a number of years, they say, remediation of the Raritan River adjacent to this site has been stalled since 2004 when, despite concluding that the river was contaminated, NJDEP delayed clean up of the river sediments indefinitely.

Despite NJDEP’s concerns in 2004 that upstream sources would re-contaminate the river at the NL Industries site, the complaint alleges that several of these upstream sources are presently being remediated and that the main source of contamination is the NL Industries site and the highways. Pisano’s opinion made findings of fact regarding NJDEP’s involvement in the Raritan River remediation based solely on state documents without addressing the plaintiffs’ request to conduct discovery on these issues, according to the groups.

“We have every expectation that the Third Circuit will reverse the district court opinion,” said NY/NJ Baykeeper Executive Director Debbie Mans.  “In that event, we will continue to pursue remediation of the Raritan River to eliminate the substantial risk to the public and the environment.”

“We feel we this case was dismissed prematurely and has very strong grounds for appeal,” said Edison Wetlands Association Executive Director Robert Spiegel.  “We will continue to fight to protect the hundreds of thousands of families in Central New Jersey who care about a clean environment and the health of their children.”


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