NEWARK, NJ - The state has filed suit against former manufacturing companies and developers in the city’s Ironbound section to recover remediation costs after pollutants were found, it was announced Aug. 1.
State Attorney General Gurbir Grewal is focusing on the former Ronson Metals Corporation facility and the former Ruggiero Seafood building, accusing owners of never fully cleaning up contaminants at those sites.
“We are going to hold polluters accountable - no matter how big, no matter how powerful, no matter how long they’ve been getting away with it,” Grewal said in a statement. “And we’re sending a message to every company across the state: if you pollute our natural resources, we’re going to make you pay.”
The state attorney general also unveiled other complaints related to pollution in Warren County, Woodbridge and Atlantic City. Advocates from the Ironbound Community Corporation (ICC) Environmental Justice program praised the suits involving Newark.
“It's about time,” said ICC Environmental Justice Manager Melissa Miles. “We're thankful. But again, it was the advocacy. Why? Because we never let this drop from their radar."
State Sen. M. Teresa Ruiz and Assemblywoman Eliana Pintor Marin both praised the attorney general for taking up the fight to hold these companies accountable for the damage they have done to the state's natural resources.
"For many years now the lack of accountability has not gone unnoticed, especially in the Ironbound District," the lawmakers said in a joint statement. "The City of Newark should not have to pay to clean up the mess of corporations, and families certainly should not have to live on contaminated land. We’re thankful the state is seeking to right these wrongs, and ensuring our children have a safer and cleaner Newark to grow up in.”
About 19 homes now sit at the former Ronson site, where lighters were manufactured until 1989 using a chlorinated solvent known as Trichloroethylene (TCE). Elevated levels of the chemical were later found in the area.
Ronson Corporation (now known as RCLC) and its subsidiary, Ronson Metals (now known as Prometcor), performed limited remediation at the facility’s location after it closed, the suit says. However, the company never remediated the groundwater at the site, the state Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) alleges in the suit.
The state is also suing REI Corporation and F&M Development Group, the developers of the homes that were later built at the property. The suit alleges that REI's environmental engineer performed Rosnon's limited remediation, but didn’t disclose all aspects of the soil's contamination to the Newark Central Planning Board to gain approval for the project.
The suit also alleges the residential developers built single-family homes in the 2000s despite a deed restriction on the location.
The NJDEP installed depressurization systems in at least six homes built by the developers and 22 other buildings in the area to remove pollutants from homes.
No attorneys have been listed for the defendants in this case, state officials said.
The state is also suing to recoup environmental clean up costs at the site of another former facility in Newark.
The property on which the South Street Elementary School was built is now remediated, but it was formerly home to the Ruggiero Seafood's squid processing facility. National Lock Washer owned the property from 1892 to 1979, and it was later discovered that petroleum and other hazardous materials were discharged over time.
Ruggiero eventually bought the former National Lock Washer property in the 1980s.
The New Jersey School Development Authority (SDA) wanted to acquire the property from Ruggiero in 2004, agreeing that the company would complete remediation, the suit states. Ruggiero was slow to remediate, so the SDA took over the clean up at a cost currently at $8.8 million, the suit says.
The SDA is now suing Chiquita Brands International, Charter Manufacturing Company, Ruggiero Seafood and others. Attorneys for the involved defendants could not be reached. No attorneys for the companies have been listed yet.