TRENTON – Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal and Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Catherine R. McCabe announced today the filing of 12 new environmental enforcement actions targeting polluters across New Jersey whose actions threaten the health and safety of residents in minority and lower-income communities in Newark, Orange, South Orange, Paterson, Jersey City, Elizabeth, Hillside, Fairton and Upper Deerfield Township.
These lawsuits are a part of the State’s comprehensive justice agenda to address harms disproportionately affecting the public and environmental health of New Jersey’s low-income, non-English speaking and minority residents. They come as New Jersey residents confront the COVID-19 pandemic, an unprecedented public health crisis that has unduly burdened these communities.
Many of the properties that are the subject of today’s complaints have pollutants known to contribute to health problems including respiratory tract irritation, chronically reduced lung function, kidney problems, neurological disorders and certain cancers, which may only exacerbate COVID-19 risks.
Since announcement of the State’s environmental justice initiative in 2018, Attorney General Grewal and Commissioner McCabe have filed numerous lawsuits, making New Jersey a national leader in environmental justice enforcement.
“In New Jersey, we’re committed to our pathbreaking approach to environmental enforcement, which ensures that our efforts to clean up our environment will also serve our comprehensive justice agenda for low-income communities and communities of color,” said Attorney General Grewal. “Today’s twelve lawsuits, filed in cities and towns across our state, are a reflection of that commitment to environmental justice principles. The scourge of COVID-19 has put a harsh spotlight on the way environmental injustices affect our basic health, and we’re going to do the hard work necessary to protect communities from dumping, contamination and other illegal activities. The message to New Jersey residents should be clear: everyone, and I really mean everyone, deserves to breathe clean air and live in a safe environment.”
“The actions the DEP is taking today exemplify the Murphy Administration’s deep commitment to principles of environmental justice and equity that strengthen all of our communities, especially those most vulnerable to environmental harm,” said Commissioner McCabe. “Together, we are holding accountable those who, by design or circumstance, disproportionately harm the environment and communities of our low-income and minority neighbors. Today’s lawsuits complement the many ways that we pursue environmental justice, standing with every New Jersey community and for the shared natural resources that unite us.”
As the accompanying fact sheet describes, the complaints filed today seek to address a host of environmental threats across the state in low-income and minority communities, and are brought under New Jersey’s Spill Compensation and Control Act, Water Pollution Control Act, Air Pollution Control Act, Solid Waste Management Act, Industrial Site Recovery Act and Brownfield and Contaminated Site Remediation Act.
The 12 cases involve a broad range of harmful contamination including such hazardous substances as arsenic, copper, lead, petroleum hydrocarbons, gasoline, waste motor oil, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), oxides of nitrogen (NOx), volatile organic compounds, including trichloroethylene (TCE) and perchloroethylene (PCE), and semi-volatile organic compounds.
The complaints seek a variety of remedies, including clean-up of contaminated properties and compliance with all outstanding DEP orders, payment of damages and penalties, reimbursement to the State for clean-up costs expended to date and, in certain instances, natural resource damages.
As outlined further in the accompanying Fact Sheet, these actions include:
Former Penick Corp./Unilever, Newark: Natural Resource Damage (NRD) case, which involves groundwater contamination. Based on elevated concentrations of volatile organic compounds, semi-volatile organic compounds, polychlorinated biphenyls and various metals. Defendants include: Penick Corp., Penick Realty, LLC, and Unilever United States, Inc.
American Fabric Processors, Paterson: Emissions of volatile organic chemicals and NOx, and failure to perform required emissions tests. Defendants include American Fabric and two corporate officers, David and Jacob Binson.
Deerfield Organics, Upper Deerfield Township: Contaminated storm-water discharge. Prior owner improperly disposed of solid waste from recycling operations by burying the waste on-site, which has not been addressed by current owner. Defendants include Deerfield Organics, Nature’s Choice Recycling, and Harvest Garden State.
1576 Maple/Road Runner Fuel, Hillside: Elevated levels of dry cleaning chemicals PCE and TCE in the groundwater and indoor air (1576 Maple) and an unremoved underground storage tank system and gasoline discharge contamination (Road Runner Fuel). Defendants include Irfan Hassan; Little Mason Properties, LLC; Astro Cleaners; 1576 Maple Avenue Associates, LLC; and Road Runner Fuel Services, LLC.
Friends Gas Station, Newark: Gasoline-contaminated soil. Defendants include Little Mason Properties, LLC; Hassan and Friends Gas.
Delta Gas Station, South Orange: Gasoline discharge contamination. Defendants include Wayne Sanford and Sanford Service, owners and operators at the time of the discharges, alongside current owner Little Mason Properties, LLC.
Adolfo Auto Repair, Paterson: Failure to investigate and address potential petroleum product contamination. Owner removed two deteriorating underground tanks containing sediment and water/petroleum sludge years ago without a site investigation to identify any discharges of hazardous substances; still has not performed one. Defendant is Adolfo Gonzalez.
43-45 South Center Street, LLC (Orange Automotive): Gasoline and waste oil contamination. Owner failed to comply with 2019 order to remediate the contamination caused by discharges from multiple underground storage tanks. Defendant is 43-45 South Center, LLC.
Heba Auto Repair, Jersey City: Gasoline contamination. Underground storage tanks removed without necessary permits; site is alleged to have been back-filled with gasoline-contaminated soil. Owners not complying with DEP site investigation/remediation orders. Defendants are Fathi Hassanein and Alia Hassanein.
Hyman’s Automotive and Hyman Concreate & Construction, Fairfield Township: The issues the State is seeking to address include oil and hazardous fluids leaking from junk cars, and illegally stored and burned piles of wood and concrete. Defendants include Ennis Hyman, Gerald Hyman, and Hyman Concrete and Construction, LLC.
125 Monitor Street JC, LLC, Jersey City: Soil and groundwater contamination, including with arsenic, copper, lead, petroleum, PCE and TCE. Defendant is 125 Monitor Street JC, LLC.
Elizabeth Bolt and Nut, Elizabeth: Lead and petroleum contamination from industrial processes spanning decades. Defendants include Elizabeth Bolt & Nut Manufacturing Corporation, the Estate of Rose Haskell, Stemple Corporation, and current owner Aquaserv Bottled Water Service, Inc.
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These filings are the latest in a series of environmental enforcement and environmental justice actions taken by Attorney General Grewal and Commissioner McCabe over the past 2+ years. Among other things, they have:
Photographs of the sites involved with today’s environmental justice announcement are available here.