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December 18, 2003

Contact: Amy Cradic
(609) 984-1795

DEP Commissioner Calls Paterson Enforcement and Environmental Compliance Effort a Success

(03/184) PATERSON - With wide-spread cooperation from area businesses, the local chamber of commerce and citizen groups, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Bradley M. Campbell today joined city of Paterson Mayor Jose Torres to announce the success of the Paterson enforcement effort that included inspections at more than 1,000 facilities, offered nearly 100 voluntary compliance assistance visits and uncovered 159 major environmental violations.

"Once again, our concentrated enforcement and compliance effort in one of New Jersey's largest cities has proven beneficial to area residents by curtailing potentially dangerous environmental violations occurring near their homes," said Commissioner Campbell. "Many of Paterson's businesses are now more environmentally informed, with some already addressing violations found. Simply put: the city is a safer, healthier place to live."

"I am very gratified by the partnership we established with the DEP and the Chamber in this effort. Together, we are committed to protecting Paterson's residents from environmental crimes impacting their quality of life. The recent inspections in our city will help ensure this protection," said city of Paterson Mayor Torres.

"Many area businesses welcomed the department's environmental compliance assistance because they want to do the right thing and also are concerned about the health and safety of local residents," said Paterson Chamber of Commerce President Jamie Dykes.

Identifying a high number of regulated businesses located in close proximity to residential neighborhoods in the city of Paterson, Passaic County, the DEP launched a two-phase compliance and enforcement effort in the city in September 2003. The initial stage of the compliance and enforcement effort focused on community outreach and on providing assistance to the city's known and potentially regulated individuals, businesses and government operations.

Working with the New Jersey's Department of Commerce, the Paterson Chamber of Commerce and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 2, a total of 98 compliance assistance visits were conducted and more than 425 facilities received assistance materials or participated in informational sessions. A total of six compliance assistance programs were held: one Paterson Chamber of Commerce session, two dry cleaner sessions, one auto body session, one general compliance assistance session, and one minority-business outreach session.

"This is an excellent example of how we can improve compliance through both compliance assistance and enforcement," said Jane M. Kenny, EPA Regional Administrator. "The Paterson community, with its many industrial facilities, will benefit tremendously from this concentrated effort to make sure these facilities are doing what they should to protect people's health and the environment."

The second phase of the enforcement effort, which was conducted with assistance from the Passaic County Health Department, the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission and the EPA, involved a large-scale inspection of more than 1,000 sites throughout the city. Of the 1,028 sites visited, a total of 1,357 inspections were conducted, resulting in the citation of 159 major violations and 252 minor violations. In addition, DEP issued more than 230 compliance certificates to cooperative businesses where no violations occurred. In total, the DEP and its partners mobilized more than 145 inspectors to ensure city-wide compliance with laws addressing water quality, solid and hazardous waste, air pollution and illegal land use activities.

The violations ranged from unregistered underground storage tanks and failure to install air monitoring and emissions equipment, to illegal treatment and storage of hazardous wastes and unpermitted stormwater discharge activities.

Major hazardous waste violations were uncovered as a result of the Paterson effort.

On Monday, December 8, DEP hazardous waste and air pollution inspectors found more than 140 55-gallon drums of various chemicals, including used oils, mineral spirits, dyes, caustics, and unknown substances from previous dye operations at the former Zenith Dye and Finishing Corporation located at 46 East 24th Street and 2nd Avenue. The building posed a potentially dangerous condition to the neighboring industries and homes because of inadequate sprinkler systems, outdated fire extinguishers, leaking drums of oils and other chemicals, as well as the unpermitted use of the building by a kindling cutting and packing operation.

DEP inspectors notified the Paterson City Fire Prevention Bureau and Hazmat Teams, and immediately issued a Notice of Violation to the "alleged" responsible party, the Greater Community Bank of Totowa, and its associate bank, the Bergen Commercial Bank. The NOV was for failing to determine if solid waste in the 55-gallon drums, powders and other opened containers was hazardous. It ordered the responsible party to remove all spill materials from the leaking drums inside and outside the building and to secure the building to ensure that the materials do not pose a hazard to human health or the environment. Local, county, and state officials were previously unaware of the condition of the building before the Paterson effort. Despite the bank's claim that it is not responsible for the drums, the company has agreed to take appropriate corrective actions.

On Thursday, December 11, DEP inspector's from the Water Enforcement Team and hazardous waste accompanied by two New Jersey State Park Rangers inspected the furniture operator Empire Industries, Inc., formerly known as Empire Marble Corporation, located at 195 River Street in Paterson. Approximately 100-to-200 55-gallon drums, and a few 250-gallon totes, were found onsite. The drums were found in various conditions, were not protected from the elements and many were found in direct contact with the ground. Prior to March of 2000, Empire manufactured synthetic marble, under the company name of Empire Marble Company. Their synthetic marble products were manufactured from such raw materials as limestone, aluminum hydrate (a filler), and various polyester & polyurethane resins, and therefore posed a potential hazardous waste risk. The DEP issued a NOV requiring the site owner to determine if the "solid waste" on the property was hazardous and a second NOV for failure to maintain or operate the facility to minimize possibilities of fire, explosion, or releases of hazardous waste or hazardous waste constituents. DEP has confirmed that Empire has contacted a disposal service to properly remove all of the material being stored in their rear yard.

In addition to hazardous waste violations, several area bodegas were issued stop-sale orders for illegal, imported pesticides, which are highly toxic and pose serious health threats to children if used in the home. These pesticides are commonly known as Tres Pasitos and Chinese Chalk.

In a separate incident, an ongoing investigation is being conducted at a dye and chemical company where a truck leaving the facility was believed to be leaking hydrochloric acid vapor. The facility also is under investigation for possible groundwater violations and illegal discharges to Passaic Valley sewerage.

Approximately 180 referrals have been made by DEP inspectors as a result of the enforcement effort, and follow-up investigations will be conducted at sites where additional violations may exist.

As part of ongoing outreach efforts in Paterson, DEP is planning a community availability session in the New Year working with the city and other community organizations. During the community availability session, community members and businesses will be able to get more information on DEP's environmental protection regulations and small business assistance programs. Community members interested in participating in DEP outreach activities can contact Jeremee Johnson at 609-777-0319.



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