AP NEWS

NJ targets pollution in poorer areas with 6 lawsuits

October 25, 2019 GMT

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey on Friday sued a mix of companies and individuals over a half-dozen polluted sites across the state, mostly in poor and minority communities.

Attorney General Gurbir Grewal and Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Catherine McCabe announced the lawsuits seeking to collect fines and recoup hundreds of thousands of dollars in cleanup costs outside Newark’s Historic Courthouse.

The cases involve a former metal-finishing plant in Newark, two dry cleaners in Trenton, a dump with 10,000 cubic yards of waste in Camden, a scrap yard in Kearny and a gas station in East Orange.

Attempts to reach the defendants were not successful.

Grewal highlighted in particular Nanes Metal Finishing plant in Newark, which operated from 1966 until 1994. He said the site led to the discharge of chemicals into the groundwater that are linked with kidney dysfunction as well as respiratory illness. The state is seeking to recoup $500,000 in cleanup costs that it incurred.

It’s the latest in a string of environmental lawsuits the Democratic administration of Gov. Phil Murphy has pursued. Grewal has said previously that under Republican Chris Christie such suits had essentially ceased.

Grewal said the state is trying to send a message that polluters won’t be tolerated. Friday’s development focused on communities where the median household income is well below the state average, which stood at about $76,000 in 2017, according to the U.S. Census. The communities are also mostly nonwhite, according to the attorney general’s office.

“I want to send a clearer message to those polluters who’ve harmed our resources and our environmental justice communities that we’re going to pursue you, we’re going to hold you accountable, just like we’re holding these six companies accountable,” Grewal said.

New Jersey has about 13,000 cases in its polluted site remediation program, according to state figures from August 2019. The cases cover a range of polluted sites, from less to more serious.

Grewal said his office and the DEP chose the six locations based on a number of factors, including the ability of defendants to pay, but also areas that have been long neglected, in particular in the state’s poorest areas.