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Tuesday, June 18, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Newark Sues to Address a Century of Pollution

NEWARK (CN) - A onetime hub of industry in New Jersey "has degenerated into a sprawling, derelict, hazardous 14-acre wasteland," Newark claims in Federal Court.

The city filed the complaint Monday against the past and present owners of a facility on 256 Venderpool St., in Newark.

Newark first goes after E.I. du Pont de Nemours Co., more commonly known as DuPont, which bought the facility in 1917.

Heubach Inc., the facility's mid-1980s owner, is also a defendant, as are Alent PLC and Enthone Inc., two present-day splinters of Cookson Pigments Inc.

"For nearly a century, the defendants on-site industrial operations resulted in widespread and severe levels of contamination the Vanderpool facility," the 30-page complaint states.

Newark says the pigment operations conducted at the facility were profitable but "literally a dirty, dangerous business."

"A host of highly toxic metals and organic chemicals" that these operations generated now taint the facility's soil and groundwater, according to the complaint.

"Without question, these various contaminants pose a significant threat to Newark's nearly 300,000 people and her various environmental habitats," Newark says. Describing it as "the incredibly carcinogenic and toxic compound that gained cultural prominence via its role in the movie 'Erin Brokovich,'" Newark highlights hexavalent chromium as its chief concern.

"Alas, despite the clear hazards the Vanderpool facility thus has posed, currently poses and will pose, the state of New Jersey has wholly failed to effectuate the abatement of the facility's myriad threats, or compel the aforesaid defendants to do virtually anything to remediate the facility's severe contamination," the complaint states. "Indeed, as the city will illustrate herein, across three decades of New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection oversight, the contamination at the facility has only gotten worse." (Emphasis in original.)

Though not named as a defendant, New Jersey takes another hit from the city later in the complaint.

"Newark now implores this court to help it do what the defendants and the state should have done over the past 30 years - clean up the contamination at the Vanderpool facility and clear up the substantial threat the facility presents to the city's people and her environment," the complaint states.

Each of the various discrete parcels that make up the Vanderpool facility are all "currently highly contaminated," Newark says (emphasis in original).

Court intervention is necessary because "the facility's contamination has spread far beyond its borders," according to the complaint.

"Once a hub of significant industrial activity, the Vanderpool facility has degenerated into a sprawling, derelict, hazardous 14-acre wasteland in the heart of Newark's Ironbound District," the complaint says.

Newark wants the court to have the defendants promptly remove "all chromium-contaminated soils" from the Vanderpool facility, clean the groundwater, look for other contamination their operations have caused, and remediate all environmental contaminants at and around the site.

The city is represented by Derek Fanciullo with Matsikoudis & Fanciullo in Jersey City.

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