Newark to company: clean up your toxins

By Naomi Nix | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
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on March 13, 2015

NEWARK — Newark's city government has filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company left a neighborhood contaminated with toxic chemicals for decades and never cleaned it up, officials announced today.

DuPont Co. and other companies profited off of a former pigment factory plant in the city's Ironbound neighborhood but also contaminated the land and water near the site, the city said in a statement.

According to the city, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection ordered DuPont to clean up the site of the former Vanderpool Facility, located at 256 Vanderpool Street, more than 30 years ago. Since then, the corporation has done little to remediate the contamination which includes Hexavalent Chromium, lead and arsenic, the city alleges.

Now, the property is an empty "14-acre wasteland," the city said in a statement.

"After 30 years of broken promises, DuPont Co. and the other corporations who polluted this property have done nearly nothing to clean it up," Newark mayor Ras Baraka said.

Dupont said in a statement that the site does not pose a risk to Newark residents and the company is committed to cleaning it up.

"Regardless of the complaint, DuPont is committed to complete the final cleanup of the site, as required by NJDEP regulations and guidance, with field work beginning in 2015 and completion scheduled in early 2016," company spokesman Dan Turner said.

But Turner said the lawsuit could hold up future development plans for the site.

The other companies the city is suing include The Cookson Company, Inc. and Heubach Inc. Representatives for The Cookson Company and Heubach Inc. could not immediately be reached for comment.

A spokesman for the NJDEP declined to comment on the pending litigation.

For nearly a century the defendants used the Vanderpool Facility to manufacture large amounts of organic and inorganic colored pigments to use in printing ink, plastics and paint industries, according to the lawsuit.

DuPont bought the Vanderpool Facility in 1917 and operated it until 1984. Heubach Inc. then bought the facility from DuPont in the early 1980s and used it until 1988. Cookson Pigments, Incorporated acquired the Vanderpool Facility from Heubach in 1988, and operated it until 1999, according to the lawsuit.

"During that time, they used the Facility to primarily host and support their various pigment production operations," the complaint says.

"However, though highly profitable, pigment production is literally a dirty, dangerous business."

Through the process of creating the pigments, the defendants disposed of "a host of highly toxic metals and organic chemicals" into the soil and groundwater near the facility.
One of the most concerning contaminant that was discharged was Hexavalent Chromium, a carcinogenic compound that was highlighted in the 2000 movie "Erin Brokovich," the lawsuit alleges.

"Without question, these various contaminants pose a significant threat to Newark's nearly 300,000 people and her various environmental habitats," the lawsuit says.

Despite being required to remediate the situation more than 30 years ago, the defendants have done "nearly nothing of substance to clean up the site," the lawsuit says.

In fact, the NJDEP has issued at least a dozen notices of deficiency or notices of violation over the last 20 years due to the defendants' lack of action, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court on Monday, seeks the court to order the companies to clean up the contamination.

In a separate lawsuit, filed in state court, Newark is asking the court to order DuPont, Heubach and Cookson to pay the city millions of dollars to make up for the tax revenue it did not collect on the property, the city's statement said.

"Enough is enough," Baraka said. "We have filed suit to force the corporations to thoroughly and expeditiously clean up the serious contamination they left behind, pay Newark the millions of dollars in tax revenues that they deprived the City, and enable us to transform Newark into a safer and healthier City that we can all believe in."

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