AG Platkin, DEP Commissioner LaTourette Resolve Montvale Groundwater Natural Resource Damage Case

$14 million settlement represents one of the most significant single-site groundwater NRD recoveries in New Jersey

For Immediate Release: May 16, 2024

Office of the Attorney General
– Matthew J. Platkin, Attorney General
NJ Department of Environmental Protection
– Shawn M. LaTourette, Commissioner

For Further Information:

Media Inquiries-
Allison Inserro
Larry Hajna, (DEP)

Consent Judgment

TRENTON – Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin and Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Shawn M. LaTourette today announced a $14 million resolution of a natural resource damages (NRD) lawsuit against two companies for the contamination of groundwater with trichloroethylene (TCE) in Montvale, Bergen County.  DEP will use the funds to restore natural resources and recover its own cleanup costs.

The settlement, which is memorialized in a consent judgment that was entered by the Superior Court, amicably resolves the 2019 lawsuit filed by the State without requiring a trial, and it represents a significant groundwater NRD recovery for New Jersey. The defendants in the case are Handy & Harman, Handy & Harman Electronic Materials, Steel Partners Holdings, LP, and Plessy Incorporated, collectively known as the Handy & Harman Defendants; as well as Cycle Chem, Inc., which was formerly known as Perk Chemical Co.

“The well-being of our communities depends on access to safe and uncontaminated water,” said Attorney General Platkin. “Once again, our message is clear: We will pursue repayment and repair when corporate actions injure our natural resources. No one is above the law when environmental damages are at stake.”

The Handy & Harman Defendants were owners and operators of an etching and surfacing facility at 20 Craig Road, Montvale, and Cycle Chem was the supplier and transporter of the TCE used at the facility. TCE, a primary solvent used in degreasing, was used at the site for decades from about 1966 to 1985. TCE and other hazardous substances were discharged on the property, resulting in the contamination of multiple underlying groundwater aquifers and the closure of nearby drinking water wells. TCE has been linked to cancer, including in the liver and kidneys.

“This $14 million settlement is significant not only for resolving our claims for the groundwater contamination wrought on Montvale and the surrounding area by these defendants, but for demonstrating to corporate polluters everywhere and the public that our Department of Environmental Protection, in partnership with the Office of the Attorney General, will not waver in seeking justice for natural resource damages,” said Commissioner LaTourette. “Our work pursuing compensation and restoration to New Jersey’s precious natural environment is a priority, and it will continue.”

The proposed consent judgment was published in the New Jersey Register on May 15, 2023, with a 60-day public comment period. Upon expiration of the public comment period and review of all public comments received, the State filed the agreement with Judge Mary F. Thurber in State Superior Court in Bergen County.

While the companies did not admit fault or liability in the settlement agreement, the companies agreed to resolve their alleged liability for natural resource damages and to reimburse the State for past cleanup and removal costs.

Specifically, the agreement provides:

  • The Handy & Harman Defendants will pay $10.4 million to settle the State’s claims for damages arising from injuries to natural resources, as well as more than $93,300 to reimburse the NJDEP for prior cleanup and removal costs; and
  • Cycle Chem will pay $3.5 million, including more than $3.46 million in natural resource damages, and $31,100 toward reimbursement of the State’s past cleanup and removal efforts.

The site is undergoing remediation by Handy & Harman, and the cleanup is expected to be completed in the near future. The remediation will reduce the size of the groundwater plume, decrease potential impacts to drinking water wells, and mitigate the impacts of vapors in nearby buildings.

To prevent exposure to the contamination, the remediation will also involve restrictions on the use of groundwater in two areas. The smaller area involves a TCE plume extending across the Craig Road property and stretching about 600 feet off the property, to a depth of approximately 60 feet. The larger section involves a bedrock TCE plume encompassing the entire Craig Road property and extending over 8,000 feet off the property, with a depth of approximately 700 feet and a width of approximately 4,000 feet.

The contaminated groundwater is being remediated through active groundwater recovery and hydraulic control, as well as a treatment system for removal of chlorinated volatile organic contaminant compounds. The offsite groundwater plume is also undergoing monitored natural attenuation, where natural environmental processes are watched to check that the contaminant levels are reduced naturally over time to applicable standards. Carbon filters have been installed in on-site buildings to address potential vapor intrusion issues. Further monitoring is being conducted to determine whether the same systems are needed for certain off-site structures in the future.

The settlement announced today was handled by the Environmental Enforcement and Environmental Justice (EEEJ) Section within the Division of Law’s (DOL) Affirmative Civil Enforcement Practice Group, Section Chief Gary Wolf, Assistant Section Chiefs James LaBianca and Thomas P. Lihan, and special outside counsel Al Anthony, Esq., The Locks Law Firm, Richard Meadow of The Lanier Law Firm, and Robert Donchez of Florio, Perrucci, Steinhardt & Cappelli, LLC, under the supervision of Assistant Attorney General Aaron Kleinbaum and DOL Director Michael T.G. Long.

The DEP’s Contaminated Site Remediation and Redevelopment program and Office of Natural Resource Restoration played an important role in work leading to the resolution of this matter. In particular, the DEP notes the contributions of CSRR’s William Schreyer, Alphonse Inserra and Brian McCoach, who determined the costs incurred by the state that were recovered and reviewed the settlement document, as well as ONRR’s Peter Revilla and Tony Iavarone (retired), who conducted the damage assessment and coordinated with the Division of Law.


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