FLEMINGTON, N.J. – The site of the former Tirpok’s cleaners, where a fire destroyed the building last year, is the target of a lawsuit filed by the state’s Attorney General and Department of Environmental Protection.
Tirpok’s in one of eight sites identified by the state as part of its “environmental justice” initiative. It is the only one of the sites located in Hunterdon.
According to the suit, tetracloroethene, also called percloroethylene (“PCE”), leaked from wastewater holding pits on the property, contaminating the soil and groundwater.
Groundwater contamination from the property migrated to a well owned by Flemington Water Company, and ground water pumped from the well was used by Flemington residents from March 1977 until the well was closed in Feb., 1989, according to the suit.
Andrew G. Tirpok, Jr. is the owner of the .44 acre property on Reaville Avenue, the suit states, although Tirpok’s Cleaners is defunct.
The state discovered environmental violations in 2002, according to the suit. That led to the installation of six subsurface monitoring wells; three were placed at Tirpok's and the other three were installed on property owned by Wendy’s fast-food restaurant, which is between Tirpok’s and the borough’s well, which is located near the intersection of Elmwood Avenue and Williams Street.
Andrew G. Tirpok, III, who the suit names as President of the Tirpok Group, is responsible for “the conduct that directly led to the discharges of hazardous substances ... and violations of, among other statutes and regulations, the Spill Act and WPCA” and could have prevented or corrected the discharge and violations “but failed to do so,” according to the suit.
The suit claims the state has already spent money in an effort to clean up the site.
Because Tirpok failed to comply with state orders, Andrew G. Tirpok, III and Tirpok Group are “strictly liable ... in an amount up to three times the cleanup and removal costs that Plaintiffs have incurred, and will incur in the future,” the suit states.
In a press release, the Attorney General said the Tirpok and other lawsuits are “focused on addressing pollution and environmental hazards in minority and lower-income communities across the state” and are “designed to support communities that have historically suffered some of the worst environmental harms in the state.
“Environmental justice means that everyone, no matter race, ethnicity, color, national origin, or income, deserves to live and work in a healthy and clean environment,” said Grewal. “But too often, the same communities suffer the worst environmental problems over and over again but don’t get the support that they need.”
Grewal cautioned that the suits “should make one thing clear to the polluters that have run amok in these communities: Not on our watch. We’re going to make New Jersey a national leader on environmental justice.”