- Attorney General Anne Milgram announced
that the Division of Criminal Justice today
obtained an indictment charging the owner
of the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Secaucus with
unlawfully pumping wastewater contaminated
with sewage into the Hackensack River.
to Criminal Justice Director Deborah L. Gramiccioni,
the corporate owner of the hotel, RD Secaucus
LLC, which does business as Crowne Plaza Hotel
Secaucus and Rosdev Hospitality Secaucus LP,
is charged in a state grand jury indictment
with third-degree unlawful discharge of a
pollutant in violation of the New Jersey Water
Pollution Control Act.
indictment alleges that between Jan. 1, 2008
and June 8, 2009, the hotel unlawfully discharged
polluted wastewater into the Hackensack River
without a permit from the state Department
of Environmental Protection (DEP) or the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency.
investigation by the Division of Criminal
Justice Environmental Crimes Section and the
DEP revealed that putrid wastewater from an
underground tunnel collects in a grate-covered
pit beside the hotel, located at 2 Harmon
Plaza. Hotel staff allegedly rigged a pump
in the pit and a hose, through which the foul-smelling
wastewater was pumped across a grassy area
to the riverbank.
hotel, on a weekly basis, allegedly pumped
hundreds of gallons of water polluted with
sewage, chlorine and other chemicals into
the river. Laboratory tests of water samples
taken from the pit confirmed that the wastewater
contains sewage and other pollutants.
“Discharging pollutants into New Jersey’s
waterways is a crime that threatens the environment
and has the potential to threaten public health
as well,” said Attorney General Milgram.
“The staff of the Crowne Plaza showed
a disregard for the health of the Hackensack
River, of the environment, and of their neighbors.
Rather than treasuring the river that runs
so close to their hotel, they unlawfully chose
to treat it like a sewer.”
investigation began in late May, when Captain
Bill Sheehan of Hackensack Riverkeeper, an
environmental organization dedicated to protecting
the river, alerted the Division of Criminal
Justice that he received an anonymous tip
that the hotel was discharging pollutants
into the river.
commend Hackensack Riverkeeper for bringing
this violation to our attention, as well as
the concerned citizen who alerted their organization,”
said Director Gramiccioni. “For our
environmental enforcement efforts to succeed,
they must include the eyes, ears and noses
of New Jersey residents who report the suspicious
activities of illegal polluters and dumpers.”
June 8, detectives from the Division of Criminal
Justice executed a search warrant at the hotel,
along with a DEP water inspector, in order
to, among other things, make physical examinations
related to the pit and the sources of the
wastewater, conduct tests, take samples, and
seize related records. A team from the Passaic
Valley Sewerage Commission assisted on site
by deploying a robot equipped with a video
camera into the underground tunnel connected
to the pit. PVSC also assisted in analysis
of water samples.
same day, DEP issued a Notice of Violation
to the hotel, ordering it to cease any activity
that would cause wastewater from the pit to
flow into the river.
Water Pollution Control Act provides for a
fine of $75,000 for a violation of the act.
However, the defendant could potentially face
hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines
because the law provides that a violator can
be liable for a separate fine for each day
a violation occurs.
indictment was handed up to Superior Court
Judge Pedro J. Jimenez Jr. in Mercer County,
who assigned the case to Hudson County, where
the defendant will be ordered to appear at
a later date. The indictment is merely an
accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent
until proven guilty. The indictment is linked
to this release at www.njpublicsafety.com.
Deputy Attorney General Edward R. Bonanno,
Lt. Jeffrey Gross, Detective Michael Klumpp,
Detective Steven Ogulin and Detective Dawn
Ryan conducted the investigation for the Environmental
Crimes Section of the Division of Criminal
Justice’s Major Crimes Bureau. Supervising
Deputy Attorney General Bonanno presented
the case to the state grand jury.
General Milgram thanked Hackensack Riverkeeper,
the DEP and the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission
for their assistance.
the past year, the Division of Criminal Justice
Environmental Crimes Section has partnered
with the Hackensack Riverkeeper and the NY/NJ
Baykeeper to pursue a community environmental
policing strategy, establishing a pilot program
in which those citizen stewards patrol New
Jersey waterways looking for potential environmental
working closely with law enforcement and monitoring
suspected problem areas, these environmental
groups will enhance the ability of the Division
of Criminal Justice, DEP and other law enforcement
agencies to detect and prosecute environmental
violations and potentially avert serious environmental
and public health incidents.
DEP maintains a 24-Hour Environmental Hot
Line - 1-877-WARN-DEP (1-877-927-6337)
- to receive reports of environmental crimes.
regarding environmental enforcement activities
can be obtained by logging on to the Division
of Criminal Justice web page at www.njdcj.org
or the Department of Environmental Protection
web page at www.nj.gov/dep.