STATE SECURES $4 MILLION IN NATURAL-RESOURCE DAMAGE SETTLEMENTS,
PRESERVES MORE THAN 700 ACRES
(08/38) TRENTON - The state has secured nearly $4 million in damages and has protected more than 700 acres of open space over the past year as the result of settlements that compensate the public for injuries to natural resources, Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Lisa P. Jackson announced today.
“We continue to fight on behalf of New Jersey’s citizens, who have a fundamental right to be compensated for natural resources that have been harmed by pollution,” Commissioner Jackson said. “Our quality of life is intrinsically entwined with the quality of our natural resources, whether it’s having the ability to cast a fishing line into a clear stream or having access to clean and abundant drinking water.”
The DEP, represented by the Attorney General’s office, files lawsuits known as natural-resource damage claims that seek monetary and land compensation for injuries discharges of hazardous substances and oil spills have caused to natural resources such as ground water, surface water bodies, and wetlands.
“NRD litigation is an important tool to ensure that contaminated properties are cleaned up and restored, and ensures that the state is compensated for injuries to its precious natural resources,” said Attorney General Anne Milgram. “On behalf of all New Jersey residents, we will continue to work with the DEP to pursue lawsuits aimed at protecting our environment and obtaining just compensation for the harm done by pollution.”
The DEP uses money from settlements of these lawsuits toward ecological restoration projects in the same watershed where the original resource injuries occurred. In negotiating the settlements, the DEP works to preserve land that has high ecological value, particularly land that recharges groundwater supplies.
Since June 2007, the DEP’s Office of Natural Resource Restoration has resolved claims against 19 responsible parties that caused pollution at 41 sites. These include the following major settlements:
- New Providence-based Lucent Technologies, as successor in interest to AT&T, agreed to pay $1.2 million for groundwater contamination at nine sites it owns in Berkeley Heights, Chester Borough, Chester Township, Hanover, Holmdel, Kearny, and New Providence.
- Pittsburgh, Pa.-based Bayer Corp., as successor to Miles Inc., Lanxess and other companies, agreed to pay $1 million for groundwater pollution at a chemical, plastic and rubber manufacturing plant in Haledon, Passaic County. Cleanup of the property has included capping of portions of the site, groundwater treatment, and operation of a soil-vapor extraction system.
- Folsom-based South Jersey Gas Co. settled natural resource damage liability resulting from groundwater contamination at a dozen sites of predecessor companies that once derived gas from coal. The coal-gasification facilities were located in Atlantic City, Bridgeton, Egg Harbor City, Glassboro, Hammonton, Millville, Penns Grove, Pleasantville, Vineland and Woolwich. The company agreed to provide a conservation easement on a 149-acre property in Folsom and to provide $549,200 to preserve 159 acres in Buena Vista, Mullica and Oldmans townships.
- The 3M Company of St. Paul, Minn. settled a complaint resulting from the disposal of chemical wastes at the Woodland dump sites in Burlington County in the 1950s and 1960s. The sites have undergone significant cleanup actions, including soil removal and groundwater remediation. 3M agreed to pay the state $315,000 for resource damages and is donating 154 acres of woodlands in Buena Vista Township, Atlantic County, as a groundwater recharge area. The DEP is currently negotiating with other responsible parties to resolve their natural-resource injury liability at the Woodland dump sites.
- As part of a consent decree addressing groundwater contamination, Southern Ocean Landfill Inc. is arranging for the donation of 195 acres of forest as a groundwater recharge area. The wooded area is adjacent to the landfill, which is located in Ocean Township, and is near two state wildlife management areas, Greenwood Forest and Forked River Mountain.
Settlement of natural-resource damage claims does not absolve responsible parties of past or future cleanup obligations or DEP penalties associated with the sites. Since the program’s inception in the early 1990s, the DEP has secured more than $55 million in damages and protected approximately 6,000 acres.
For more information on the Office of Natural Resource Restoration, go to: http://www.nj.gov/dep/nrr/