For Immediate Release: April 20, 2023
Office of the Attorney General
– Matthew J. Platkin, Attorney General
NJ Department of Environmental Protection
– Shawn M. LaTourette, Commissioner
For Further Information:
Lawrence Hajna, (DEP)
Canrad Executed Directive
Fort Lee Tire Center Complaint | MJ & Sons Complaint | SB Milltown Complaint
ICC Complaint | ESCO Complaint | Wawa Complaint | Frimair Complaint
American Fabric Settlement | Baja Auto Settlement
TRENTON – Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin and Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Shawn M. LaTourette today announced eight new environmental enforcement actions targeting polluters across the State whose toxic legacies continue to threaten public health, safety, and the environment. They also announced that settlement agreements had been reached in two other environmental justice cases.
The eight new matters include five environmental justice actions centering on a broad array of toxic pollutants that have tainted overburdened communities at two separate, unrelated sites in Newark; a site in Fort Lee; a site in Milltown; and a site in Camden. These communities are considered overburdened under New Jersey’s Environmental Justice Law because they have significant low-income, minority, and/or limited-English proficiency populations.
Three additional lawsuits filed today focus on requiring responsible parties to clean up contamination and recovering costs DEP incurred in addressing that contamination at other sites.
Additionally, Attorney General Platkin and Commissioner LaTourette announced two environmental justice case settlements that resolve prior lawsuits by the State.
“Today’s enforcement actions are our latest efforts to fight for environmental justice and stand up for New Jersey’s most vulnerable residents,” said Attorney General Platkin. “Through these actions, we are sending a clear message: whether you pollute our air, our soil, or our water, we will hold you accountable. Our communities deserve no less.”
“Earlier this week, the Department made history by implementing Environmental Justice regulations aimed at reducing future environmental harms to overburdened communities,” said DEP Deputy Commissioner Sean Moriarty. “Today’s actions embody DEP’s commitment to correct the legacy of pollution and make clear the consequences for creating or contributing to environmental injustice. We stand proudly with Attorney General Platkin to remedy these existing problem sites in New Jersey.”
Filed in New Jersey Superior Court, the four environmental justice lawsuits address a variety of environmental threats including the contamination of soil and groundwater, as well as the potential in some cases for harmful chemical vapors. Likewise, the pollutants at issue and violations of law vary from complaint to complaint. A fifth environmental justice action is a DEP Directive to require the responsible parties to remediate hazardous conditions or face further legal action. An additional three lawsuits seek to compel remediation and recover the costs of public funds expended at other sites around the State.
All of the pollutants at issue in today’s lawsuits can cause injury to human health and damage to the environment.
Including the lawsuits filed today, the Attorney General’s Office and DEP have filed a total of 56 environmental justice cases in overburdened communities since 2018. To date, the lawsuits have yielded nearly $19 million in judgments.
Many of the cases have resulted in court orders requiring responsible parties to protect public health and the environment by remediating the properties at issue. Such orders are important because they ensure that polluters – not New Jersey taxpayers – bear the cost of cleaning up harmful contamination.
Today’s eight actions seek a variety of court-directed remedies, including clean-up of the tainted properties, payment to the State of civil penalties, compliance with administrative orders previously issued by DEP, and reimbursement to the State for the cost of site investigation, remediation, monitoring, and other related work.
As outlined further in the accompanying papers, the actions announced today include:
Environmental Justice Actions
Canrad Hanovia: The DEP-issued Directive requires the responsible parties to remediate widespread contamination of soil and groundwater caused by former industrial operations, including contamination from volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can cause numerous health effects. The current owner failed to complete remediation of the site and failed to maintain the remediation funding source. The responsible parties include Canrad, Inc. (previous owner), Sumo Realty, Inc. (current owner), BASF Catalysts, LLC (successor Engelhard Corp.), Citigroup Global Markets Holdings, Inc. (successor Engelhard Minerals & Chemical Corp.), Engelhard Hanovia, Inc., and Hanovia Specialty Lighting, LLC (successor prior operator).
Fort Lee Tire Center: This lawsuit seeks the remediation of gasoline-contaminated soil adjacent to a residential neighborhood. In 1999, the owner discovered and ignored the discharges from multiple underground storage tanks. He then failed to comply with a 2018 DEP order to remediate the contamination. Defendant is Thomas Argiro, owner and operator of site since 1984.
MJ & Sons: The lawsuit seeks to address the operation of illegal solid waste transport and storage businesses and dumping on innocent property owners. The complaint centers on flagrant and repeated violations that disregard DEP orders. Defendants consist of a mix of private individuals and the companies they own and operate including, but not limited to, Walter Miranda, Miriam Miranda, and their corporations MJSons Excavating and MJ & Sons Contractors Trucking.
SB Milltown: The lawsuit seeks to remediate transformer oil discharge containing polychlorinated biphenyls (“PCBs”) released onto the property and into nearby waterways. The previous owner hired a company to perform demolition activities, which included the demolition of three electrical transformers that caused the spill. In the face of inaction, DEP took steps to contain the contamination and partially remediate the property. Defendants include SB Milltown, COBRA Enterprises, SB Building Associates L.P., SB Building GP, LLC, United States Land Resources L.P., Berger & Bornstein, P.C., and Lawrence S. Berger.
International Customer Corp.: This lawsuit involves soil and ground water contaminated with hazardous substances including arsenic, tetrachloroethene (PCE), lead, and nickel. Former company and property owners at the time were obligated to investigate and remediate the site. They failed to do so. Defendants are Harshad M. Desai, Dinesh R. Desai, and Hiro B. Pahlajani.
Environmental Justice Settlements
American Fabric: DEP filed suit related to the air emissions – oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and VOCs – from a large boiler and textile processing machines belonging to American Fabric, an apparel manufacturer located across from an elementary school in Paterson. Since 2014, the company had failed to complete DEP-mandated tests and annual combustion adjustments and ignored subsequent notices to do so. After DEP filed its lawsuit, American Fabric came into compliance with the Air Pollution Control Act (APCA) and obtained the necessary permit for the equipment currently at the facility and now operates with a smaller boiler. The APCA permit requires annual combustion adjustments to recalibrate its boiler and machines and confirm compliance with air pollution regulations and emissions limits. American Fabric also paid $50,000 in penalties to settle the litigation.
Baja Auto Services: In 2020, Baja Auto Services closed, and the gas station it owned was abandoned with half-full tanks of gasoline and diesel fuel left underground. DEP filed suit to compel the responsible parties to properly close these tanks before the community is harmed and clean up any spills that occurred. DEP has since reached a settlement with Baja Auto Services and its former operator. The underground storage tanks at issue have been emptied and removed from the property in accordance with all rules and regulations, and no evidence of discharges was discovered. The responsible parties have also agreed to pay a $50,000 penalty. The settlement agreement has been signed by both parties and submitted to the Court for approval.
Remediation and Cost Recovery Actions
Attorney General Platkin and the Commissioner also announced cost recovery efforts for three cases in which DEP has already made a significant financial investment in remediation.
Oak Ridge: ESCO Products, Inc. (ESCO), performed sampling at their site years ago and discovered a volatile solvent in potable well water. DEP seeks to compel the company to remediate the discharges of hazardous substances and to recover the costs it incurred and will incur to remediate the properties and surrounding areas.
Wawa Plaza: A DEP investigation identified underground storage tanks owned by Melcam Properties, LLC (t/a) Mikes Service Center as a source of benzene and 1,2-dichloroethane contamination. DEP seeks remediation of the groundwater contamination and the recovery of the public funds that DEP has incurred, and will incur, to protect the health and safety of the residents at risk.
Frimair (America) East, Inc.: Frimair (America) East, Inc. (Frimair) and its individual owners/operators dumped or spilled dry cleaning fluid on the ground, where it migrated to soil and groundwater. Dry-cleaning fluid contains perchloroethylene (PERC or PCE), a hazardous substance causing adverse human health effects. The Washington Township Municipal Utilities Authority (WTMUA) conducted water tests prior to bringing a new drinking water well (Well 18) online to address growing water demands. The tests uncovered PCE at levels far exceeding safe drinking water standards. In light of this contamination, WTMUA installed a treatment system at the well, which is located across the street from the Frimair Site. DEP used public funds to investigate the soil and groundwater contamination and concluded the Frimair Site was the source of PCE contamination at Well 18. After Defendants failed to respond to DEP’s Spill Act Directive, the State filed suit to compel them to remediate the site, to recover remediation costs and penalties against the former and current owners of the property
The enforcement actions and settlement announced today are being handled by the Environmental Enforcement and Environmental Justice (EEEJ) Section within the Division of Law’s Affirmative Civil Enforcement Practice Group. Those handling the cases include: Section Chief Gary Wolf, Assistant Section Chiefs Jessica Palmer, Kevin Fleming and James LaBianca, and Deputy Attorneys General Lisa Morelli, Dianna Shinn, Bethanne Prugh, Willis Doerr, Dom Stockton-Rossini, Peter Sosinski, J. Matthew Novak, and Nell Hryshko, under the supervision of Assistant Attorney General Aaron Kleinbaum, Deputy Director Jason W. Rockwell, and Director Michael T.G. Long.
Photographs of the sites involved with today’s announcement are available at: https://www.flickr.com/gp/newjerseyoag/h073fY8616
The 2023 Earth Week video is also available at https://youtu.be/–QpYLSW5wA