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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 2, 2003

Contact: Fred Mumford
(609) 984-1795

New Jersey Seeks Compensation for Natural Resource Damages at Ciba-Geigy Superfund Site

(03/139) TRENTON --- Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Bradley M. Campbell and Attorney General Peter C. Harvey today announced that New Jersey is pursuing compensation for natural resource damages for ground water contamination at the Ciba-Giegy Superfund site in Dover Township, Ocean County.

"This action seeks compensation from companies responsible for damages to the Toms River watershed caused by Ciba-Geigy's dye and resin manufacturing operations," said Commissioner Campbell. "Ground water is one of New Jersey's most critical natural resources and contamination at Ciba-Geigy's site has resulted in lost drinking water supplies for residents in the Toms River area. Accordingly, restoration for Dover has been a high priority for the McGreevey Administration."

Under Governor McGreevey's leadership, DEP and the Attorney General's Office in the Department of Law and Public Safety last week announced a large-scale policy directive to address more than 4,000 potential claims for natural resource damages statewide. The McGreevey Administration has taken aggressive action against responsible parties requiring assessment and restoration of natural resource injuries from contaminated sites across the state.

"We intend to vigorously pursue the state's claims for natural resource damages," said Attorney General Harvey. "Where companies have polluted our land or waters, we will hold them responsible for compensating the people of this state and restoring our environment. Working with the Department of Environmental Protection, the Attorney General's Office will pursue these important environmental claims."

The state requested that Ciba Speciality Chemicals Corporation and Novartis Corporation, which are liable for discharges of hazardous substances at the Ciba-Geigy site, resolve their natural resource damage liability without the need for judicial action to avoid the time and expense of litigation. The representatives have 10 days to respond upon receipt of the notification, which was sent via certified mail September 30. Ciba-Geigy's representatives can seek an amicable resolution and meet with the state within a reasonable period of time to discuss preliminary assessments of the companies' liability and appropriate measures to compensate the public.

If Ciba-Geigy's representatives fail to respond in the initial 10-day timeframe or if settlement discussions do not prove successful, the state will pursue civil prosecution. This will result in litigation to recover all natural resource damages, penalties, costs, interest and other relief to which the state is legally entitled.

Working to recover compensation on behalf of the residents of New Jersey for the lost use of natural resources caused by industrial pollution, the McGreevey Administration has demonstrated substantial success in addressing natural resource damage claims. During the first year of the Administration, recoveries exceeded the total for the six prior years combined. The state's newly signed policy directive outlines an accelerated process needed to pursue the thousands of outstanding and potential claims.

"We have aggressively begun pursuit of settlements from polluters beyond cleanup work, finally addressing reparation to the state and its residents for injuries to our natural resources," said Commissioner Campbell. "An accelerated effort is needed to ensure that a statute of limitations for outstanding claims does not expire and result in the loss of the public's right to compensation."

Natural resource damage is the dollar value of the total restoration that is necessary to compensate the residents of New Jersey for the injury to natural resources. Injuries can be both ecological injuries to wetlands, wildlife, ground water or surface water and human use injuries such as the closure of a waterway to fishing, a beach to swimming or an aquifer to drinking water supply. In addition, restoration may include compensation for the natural resource services lost from the beginning of the injury through the full recovery of the resource.

Ground water injuries are calculated with a formula that estimates the volume of contaminated ground water, the value of the water and duration of the injury to arrive at a settlement amount. New Jersey's Spill Compensation and Control Act requires any entity that has discharged hazardous substances onto the land or into the waters of the state is liable for cleanup and removal costs, as well as the cost of restoring or replacing natural resources injured by the discharge.

Site Background

The Ciba-Geigy site was placed on the National Priorities List of Superfund sites in 1983 due to extensive soil and ground water contamination. An on-site ground water treatment plant began full-scale operation in March 1996. The plant treats approximately 2.5 million gallons per day of contaminated ground water with on-site recharge.

Additional cleanup work is underway at the site that calls for bioremediation of approximately 145,000 cubic yards of contaminated soils and the excavation and off-site disposal of about 32,000 drums. Bioremediation of some ground water and containment of some source areas were also part of the selected remedy.

The Ciba-Geigy Chemical Corporation site is presently owned and operated by the Ciba Specialty Chemicals Corporation. The site encompasses approximately 1,400 acres, 320 of which are developed, with the remainder consisting of cleared areas, pine barrens and wetlands. From 1952 to 1990, Ciba-Geigy manufactured dyes, pigments, resins and epoxy additives. In 1988, pigments and dyestuffs manufacturing operations ceased and in December 1990, resins and epoxy manufacturing ceased. The manufacturing buildings were subsequently demolished. All commercial operations at the site ceased in December 1996.

 

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