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Firm Pursues Lawsuit for Central NJ Homeowners Impacted by Contamination from Pesticide Plant

Chevron Sued For Contamination From NJ Pesticide Plant
By Kelly Knaub

Law360, New York (December 18, 2013, 7:04 PM ET)

A group of Edison, N.J., property owners last week sued Chevron Corp. in New Jersey court over alleged contamination from a pesticides manufacturing facility the company had operated in the township.

The 12 plaintiffs filed the complaint in the Superior Court of New Jersey on Dec. 12, accusing the company of discharging hazardous materials — including organichlorine pesticides, which adhere strongly to soil particles and are not very water-soluble — into the soil on their property.

According to the suit, Chevron contaminated a 15-acre wooded site it owns, called the Abramson Tract, which borders the plaintiffs’ properties and is located to the east-southeast of a facility it used to own and operate, known as the Ortho Division facility.

“Upon information and belief, defendant has discharged hazardous substances from the site, through the Abramson Tract and ultimately onto and upon plaintiffs’ properties, which discharge is continuous, ongoing and likely to recur, thereby creating a substantial and imminent threat that has disrupted plaintiffs’ lives and diminished the value of plaintiffs’ properties,” the complaint states.

Shawn M. LaTourette, attorney for plaintiffs, told Law360 on Wednesday that Chevron had been aware for some time that contaminants from its Ortho Division facility had migrated onto neighboring properties.

“This case is not just about contamination; it is about being a good neighbor,” LaTourette said. “It is important that residential property not become the storage place for potentially harmful industrial runoff, and our lawsuit seeks to restore the properties and to make these hardworking homeowners whole.”

The complaint says Chevron used the facility to process consumer and agricultural products — including pesticides — between 1952 and 1985, during which time bulk materials were brought to the site, blended, reformulated and prepared for distribution. The site was then used for warehousing and distribution between 1985 and 1990, before finally closing down in 1990, according to the complaint.

The plaintiffs claim Chevron discharged OCPs and other contaminants into the environment during the course of its ownership and operation of the site. According to the suit, remedial activities — including the removal of some 20,000 tons of OCP-contaminated soil — have taken place at the site and are ongoing.

The complaint says that environmental sampling of the Abramson Tract, which is situated between South Plainfield Borough and Edison Township in Middlesex County, has revealed the presence of hazardous substances that are characteristic of those emanating from Chevron’s site. The company obtained title to the South Plainfield portion of the Abramson Tract in 2008 and the Edison portion of the 15 acres in 2011, the suit says.

The complaint brings counts of negligence, private nuisance, public nuisance, trespass, violation of the Spill Compensation and Control Act, and a New Jersey Environmental Rights Act claim.

Plaintiffs are seeking injunctive relief, compensatory damages, fines and civil penalties under state law, plaintiffs’ fees and costs, and a jury trial, among other relief.

A representative for Chevron did not immediately return a request for comment Wednesday.

Counsel information for defendant was not immediately available.

Plaintiffs are represented by Stuart J. Lieberman and Shawn M. LaTourette of Lieberman & Blecher PC.

The case is Richard Rizzo et al. v. Chevron Corp. et al. in the Superior Court of New Jersey in Middlesex County. The case number was not immediately available.

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Kelly Knaub
Reporter

Editing by Kat Laskowski

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