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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 18, 2003

Contact: Fred Mumford
(609) 984-1795

 

DEP Issues Enforcement Directives Against Three Companies To Compel Cleanup
Action Supports State Brownfield Redevelopment Area Initiative

(03/165) Trenton-- New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Bradley M. Campbell today announced enforcement actions against three companies refusing to meet their cleanup obligations in state designated Brownfield Development Areas located in Camden, Trenton and Elizabeth targeted for priority smart growth projects.

"The contamination left by commercial operations at these three sites has not only created environmental risks, but also stymied revitalization efforts in the surrounding communities," said Commissioner Campbell. "We will not allow the burden to be shifted from polluters to communities whose residents have had to live with brownfield sites for decades."

The three enforcement directives require each company to either participate in or pay for remediation of their respective site. In Camden, DEP issued a directive against Knox Family Inc., which DEP alleges is responsible for remediation of the Knox Gelatin site. In Trenton, DEP issued a directive against Exide Corporation, which DEP alleges is responsible for remediation of the Magic Marker site. In Elizabeth, DEP issued a directive against Exact Anodizing Company, which DEP alleges is responsible for remediation of the Exact Anodizing site. Failure to comply with the directives could result in significant penalties.

"We would prefer to work voluntarily with liable companies, but the state is prepared to enforce its remediation requirements when there is a lack of cooperation," said Commissioner Campbell. "The Brownfield Development Area program creates a new opportunity for neighborhoods that are devoting their time and energy to making their communities a better place to live. We are going to make sure that these companies now step forward to meet the needs of the communities."

Commissioner Campbell noted that the directives announced today are the first actions against companies who refuse to participate voluntarily in remediating properties included in the state's Brownfield Development Area program since it was launched in 2002. The program is designed to assist neighborhoods impacted by multiple brownfield sites and encourage smart growth. Community-based steering committees propose "clusters" of closely spaced brownfield sites to DEP for coordinated oversight of the remedial process.

By helping to revitalize communities in urban areas, the Brownfield Development Area program is an important component of Governor James E. McGreevey's smart growth initiative. Communities in Camden, Elizabeth, Hillside, Irvington, Newark, Palmyra and Trenton are now working through this process.

DEP works with the state's Economic Development Authority and Department of Community Affairs and other federal, state and local partners, to help guide communities through a comprehensive and coordinated cleanup and reuse process within Brownfield Development Areas. Community-based plans for reuse can include a wide range of options including commercial, industrial, residential, park and open space uses.

As one component of its assistance to help spur progress in Brownfield Development Areas, DEP identifies companies that are legally responsible for addressing contamination on properties within the designated areas. These can include past industrial owners and operators of the properties, or other companies that dumped wastes on the properties. DEP gives the responsible parties an opportunity to participate voluntarily in fulfilling their environmental obligations. Many responsible companies have accepted this invitation.

"The City of Camden is encouraged by the actions of Commissioner Campbell to assist the residents of Camden, through the Brownfield Development Area initiative, in bringing the parties that used the land to
the table to make the land usable for Camden's future," said Camden Mayor Gwendolyn Faison. "We encourage these firms to participate with Camden in the reuse of their former property, but sometimes some folks need to be 'encouraged' by strong actions. I am pleased to see that Commissioner Campbell has directed that some strong 'encouragement' will be given to those who have not yet come forward."

"DEP has taken a major step in issuing this directive," said Mayor Chris Bollwage. "The Brownfield Development Area effort in Elizabeth Port helped engage several responsible parties in the process to remediate these sites. However, when a responsible party doesn't commit to clean up its past contamination and do the right thing, it's important for DEP to take enforcement action to bring them to the table."

"We urge the companies responsible for these environmental hazards to step up and work with DEP to address these issues," Trenton Mayor Douglas H. Palmer said. "It really is 'better late than never' in terms of the cleanup work that is needed at Magic Marker and other brownfield sites in our city. At the same time, we hope DEP will prosecute to the fullest extent of the law those entities, such as Exide, that are failing to assume their responsibility."

Brownfield sites are properties that are known or suspected to be contaminated from past industrial or commercial uses. Fear of liability for environmental cleanup has caused developers and companies to avoid these properties, leaving them abandoned or severely underused.

DEP estimates that there may be as many as 10,000 brownfields in New Jersey. These abandoned, contaminated properties can have a devastating impact on their surrounding communities by contributing to urban decay, impairing tax bases and preventing new beneficial development. This impact is particularly severe where there are several brownfield sites in one neighborhood, creating a cumulative impact that chills revitalization.

 

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