Attorney General Lauds Decision by EPA to Drop
Appeal of Court Ruling that Vacated Its Mercury Rules
TRENTON - Attorney General Anne Milgram and Acting Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Mark N. Mauriello announced today that the state has entered into a settlement agreement through which it will be paid $43 million to settle cost recovery and natural resource damage (NRD) claims associated with the Combe Fill South Landfill, a federal Superfund site in Morris County.
Under terms of the settlement, more than 200 defendants within two months will pay the state a total of about $12.7 million to cover New Jersey’s past remediation-related costs at Combe South. In addition, the defendants will pay the state approximately $3.2 million in natural resource damages related to groundwater, surface water and wetlands contamination. The payments are due no later than 60 days after the entry by a federal court of a Consent Decree memorializing the settlement.
In addition, under the agreement, the defendants will pay the state another $27 million in future remediation costs over a 30-year period.
DEP previously recovered $2.1 million in prior partial settlements with individual defendants and other parties.
Located in rural Washington and Chester Townships, Combe Fill South operated for decades as a landfill that accepted industrial wastes, sewage sludge, septic tank wastes, chemicals and waste oils. In the early 1980s, the landfill was placed on the National Priorities List (Superfund) after a DEP investigation found significant levels of hazardous substances, specifically volatile organic compounds, in ground water and surface water at the site.
“This settlement is important for the residents of New Jersey and for our environment,” said Attorney General Milgram. “Through this agreement, we are recovering costs incurred by the state to protect our citizens from one of the nation’s most contaminated landfill sites, and obtaining compensation for damage done to natural resources.”
The settlement announced today resolves lawsuits filed by the DEP and the federal Environmental Protection Agency in 1998 against parties suspected of contaminating the Combe Fill South Landfill. Under the settlement, EPA will receive $56 million in past remediation-related costs.
The filing of lawsuits by DEP and EPA followed years of remediation-related work by both agencies to address extensive groundwater and surface water contamination at the site. Among the contaminants found in the ground and surface waters were benzene, ethylbenzene, toluene and chlorethane.
In 1986, the EPA issued a Record of Decision announcing as the remedy a landfill cap and a pump-and-treat system to treat contaminated groundwater in the shallow aquifer at the site. Both the landfill cap and pump-and-treat system have been constructed, and the site is approximately one-third of the way through a 30-year operation-and-maintenance period. A second remedial investigation is currently under way to determine the extent of contamination in the ground water in the deep aquifer.
Under the settlement Consent Decree, defendants in the case are categorized in various groups including waste management entities, direct and third-party industrial and commercial waste generators, waste transporters and local and state government entities.
Deputy Attorney General Mary Ellen Halloran, assigned to the Division of Law, handled the Combe Fill South Landfill matter on behalf of the state. Extensive litigation support was provided by Edward Putnam, Jesse Robbins and Paula Walshe of the DEP’s Division of Site Remediation.