SOUTH ORANGE, NJ – The village plans to add a one-time $25 fee to sewer bills to cover legal costs in massive pollution lawsuit.
Trustees introduced a resolution authorizing the assessment at Monday’s Board of Trustees meeting. The vote was 4-0; Trustees Michael Goldberg and Nancy Gould were absent. The board will vote on adopting the fee after a public hearing.
South Orange is one of 11 towns that own and operate a wastewater treatment plant in Elizabeth. The Joint Meeting of Essex and Union Counties operates the plant.
Village Administrator Barry Lewis Jr. said that the fee would generate approximately $200,000. That number reflects the increased assessment for South Orange by the JMEUC.
“We have currently been assessed extra expenses due to litigation,” said Trustee Howard Levison, the village’s representative to the JMEUC.
The JMEUC and its towns have been named as third-party defendants in a lawsuit brought by the state Department of Environmental Protection. The lawsuit, filed in 2005, targets chemical companies the DEP claims discharged toxic chemicals into the Passaic River and Newark Bay.
The chemical companies, in turn, have filed third-party claims against hundreds of New Jersey municipalities whose treatment plants discharge into the river and bay, arguing they should share in the cleanup costs, estimated in excess of $10 billion.
Legislation has been introduced that would amend the New Jersey Spill Act to free municipalities and other public entities from the threat of liability in the lawsuit.