N.J. launches six lawsuits over polluted sites

New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal speaks during a news conference, Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2018, in Newark, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal speaks during a news conference, Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2018, in Newark, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

The Murphy administration is taking legal action to recover damages from polluters that contaminated properties and natural resources in New Jersey.

Seeking compensation for pollution to groundwater and wetlands, the six lawsuits also ask repayment of the state’s costs for environmental cleanups.

Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Catherine McCabe said all residents deserve to have the environment they live in protected so they can have healthy and productive lives.

“And we will use the full extent of our legal authority to make sure that happens,” she said. “Message: If you make a mess, clean it up, or we will be sure that you do and pay for it.”

Three of the lawsuits are the first natural resource damage cases initiated by the state in a decade. They’re seeking compensation for the harm pollution caused at the Pohatcong Valley Groundwater Contamination Superfund site in Central New Jersey; the Port Reading refinery in North Jersey; and the site of a former manufactured gas plant in Atlantic City.

Others include a former gas station site in Woodbridge; a former manufacturing facility in Newark where a school was built after the state remediated contaminated soil; and a former cigarette lighter plant in Newark where homes were built and contaminated groundwater exposed residents to harmful vapors before equipment to prevent that was installed.

The enforcement actions are critical to making public trust resources and urban communities whole, said Greg Remaud with New York/New Jersey Baykeeper.

“When there’s no enforcement — as there hasn’t been for the last 10 years — these areas languish,” said Remaud. “This isn’t going to be stood for anymore, and good things are going to happen. Polluters are going to be made to clean up the air, the water, the land that they’ve spoiled.”

State Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, who called it a new day for environmental enforcement, said more cases are in the pipeline.

“We are going to hold polluters in New Jersey accountable — no matter how big you are, no matter how powerful you are, no matter how long you’ve been getting away with it,” said Grewal.

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