Council Authorizes Settlement with Alleged Polluter

PATERSON, NJ – The City Council on Tuesday authorized a settlement of a lawsuit filed by a company accused of polluting the Passaic River. But officials made a change in the wording of the resolution to leave out a specific dollar amount for the settlement.

The city's original draft proposal said Paterson was willing to pay $95,000 to settle the case. But officials later determined they were not ready to make a public committment that precise dollar figure. 

The lawsuit stems from the state’s attempt to collect environmental damages from a chemical company that authorities have described as one of New Jersey’s worst polluters. The state in 2005 filed a lawsuit against the company now responsible for what used to be the Diamond Shamrock chemical plant in Newark along the Passaic River, a facility that officials say manufactured Agent Ornage and poured dioxin and other pollutants into the river that eventually flowed into the Newark Bay.

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After the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection filed its lawsuit, the company then filed its own cases against all the municipalities and riverfront companies that are upriver, contending that they contributed to the pollution as well.

Paterson and the various towns and businesses are negotiating a massive settlement with Occidental under which each entity would have to make payments to the chemical company, said City Corporation Counsel Paul Forsman. Paterson’s share of that cost would be $95,000, according to a proposed city council resolution.

Forsman said it would be much cheaper for Paterson to pay a settlement rather than to fight the litigation – and to risk losing – on a massive case that could drag on for years.

But the proposed settlement may not be final, Forsman said. The deal hinges on whether the other towns and businesses along the river agree to enter their own settlements, he said. If not enough settlements are reached, the litigation may proceed, he said.

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