Raritan Bay Cleanup: NL Industries Files Suit (USA)

NL Industries has filed suit in Federal Court to ensure that all “polluters” pay their fair share of the cleanup costs at the Raritan Bay Slag Superfund Site (RBS Site), including those public entities that bear the lion’s share of responsibility: Old Bridge Township, the State of New Jersey, and the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE).

The company seeks cost recovery and contribution from each of the defendants under the federal Superfund law and New Jersey Spill Act for costs in addressing the environmental contamination at the RBS Site.

The Public Polluter Defendants caused the majority of the problem at the RBS Site by allowing the use of lead-bearing slag at the site in the first place, and then doing nothing about it for the next forty years – causing the initial problem to become eight times larger and much more expensive to address. The Record of Decision for the RBS Site, issued by the Environmental Protection Agency on May 23, now requires a $79 million total off-site disposal remedy.

NL’s only connection to the RBS Site is that a former facility in Perth Amboy might have been one of the places where private developers obtained material they deposited at the site. NL never owned or leased any property at the RBS Site, never operated there, never dumped any material there, and played no role in the decision of the developers and the Public Polluter Defendants to place lead-bearing material in the water. Nonetheless, NL Industries has diligently and cooperatively worked with local, state and federal officials for the past several years to develop an effective and efficient cleanup plan.

It is well-documented that Old Bridge Township, the State of New Jersey, and the USACE knew about and allowed the use of slag for construction of a seawall at the RBS Site, and the Township even entered into a contract with the private developer who built the seawall. Even after the environmental risks associated with the use of slag in this marine environment were brought to their attention, the Public Polluter Defendants still allowed the project to proceed and then allowed the lead-bearing slag to remain in the water for another forty years, permitting it to spread.

The conduct of Old Bridge Township is especially egregious. In the early 1980’s, the Township acquired ownership of a large portion of the RBS Site, including the seawall, knowing that the slag was sitting unprotected in a marine environment. But Old Bridge Township failed to remove the slag from the water and did absolutely nothing to prevent particles of the slag material from being mechanically broken down by wave action and spread across the site. The Township also allowed the upland portion of its property to be used as a dumping ground for street sweepings (which generally contain lead) and other trash and debris.

NL has included “Customer Defendants” in this suit due to their liability under CERCLA for sending lead-bearing material to the NL facility from which the USEPA alleges at least a portion of the lead-bearing slag originated.

Press Release, June 9, 2013

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