Green New Deal News

Environmental justice lawsuit in Kearny

Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal has announced that Auto Scrap, a Kearny-based auto recycling site at 34-38 Stover Ave., is one of six defendants targeted for alleged environmental violations in towns which Grewal deemed to be Environmental Justice communities.

The state Department of Environmental Protection considers an “environmental justice community” to be any low-income community that has been disproportionately burdened with environmental violations committed by non-compliant industrial facilities or other types of polluters.

“Today’s six enforcement actions are just the latest salvo in our ongoing efforts to stand up for environmental justice and fight for communities across the state that have been ignored in the past,” Grewal said. “Our message to polluters is once again clear: you cannot pollute the state’s air, water, or land and get away with it under our watch. No matter whether a company is releasing hazardous substances into the soil or an individual is maintaining an illegal dump in a residential neighborhood, we will take them to court. That is the kind of environmental commitment that all of our communities deserve.”

Grewal charged that Auto Scrap, which dismantles vehicles onsite and sells the parts and scrap metal left over, “failed to prevent the release of oil and other fluids from vehicles and other scrap materials into the surrounding storm water or ground surface.”

The DEP had been issuing orders requiring the company to comply with the Water Pollution Control Act since 2002, which it allegedly failed to do, Grewal said. In April 2012, Auto Scrap was charged $55,000 in penalties and ordered to comply with the WPCA, Grewal said.

Grewal’s current suit against Auto Scrap, which was filed in Hudson County Superior Court, demands compliance with the WPCA, as well as penalties beyond what the DEP already imposed.

Under Auto Scrap’s current permit granted by the DEP, the company is required to implement “best practices” such as paving certain areas to prevent storm water being exposed to pollutants, as well as preventing oily materials from flowing toward the street or the Passaic River. Grewal alleged that the company has failed to meet either of those requirements.

The company also failed to provide a containment system under the hydraulic systems of its scrap processing equipment, Grewal alleged.

About a month after being charged with a $55,000 penalty, Auto Scrap contested the ruling. The Department of Enivronmental Protection transferred the case to the New Jersey Office of Administrative Law. In 2013, Auto Scrap agreed to achieve WPCA compliance, but the department found further alleged violations during four inspections in 2014.

Following the discovery of these alleged violations, the DEP affirmed the $55,000 penalty and order to comply with WPCA, which Auto Scrap did not appeal.  To date, the company has neither paid the penalty, nor has it reached WPCA compliance, Grewal alleged.

In 2016, DEP environmental specialist Maria Coppola found that the violations at Auto Scrap were allegedly ongoing, and the company was still allegedly failing to prevent the exposure of oil and grease to storm water. Coppola issued notices of violation during inspections, which took place in 2018 and 2019.

In the recent suit against Auto Scrap, Grewal charged the company with failure to comply with the DEP’s final administrative order, and failure to comply with the WPCA.

The other five Environmental Justice actions that Grewal filed on behalf of the State of New Jersey were against Nanes Metal Finishing Company in Newark; Sainte Marie Dry Cleaners in Trenton; Schofield Cleaners in Trenton; 260-268 Chestnut Street in Camden (a site of alleged illegal dumping); and Gas Mart in East Orange.

On the day that the six environmental cases, including the one against Auto Scrap were filed, Grewal also issued a 33-page “Environmental Crimes Handbook” to law enforcement officers throughout New Jersey. The handbook details how law enforcement officers should enforce laws related to air pollution, asbestos, lead, fish and wildlife, hazardous chemicals, land use, radioactive materials, waste-related crimes, and water-related crimes.

For updates on this and more stories check hudsonreporter.com or follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Mike Montemarano can be reached at mikem@hudsonreporter.com

Source: hudsonreporter.com