The Department of Environmental Protection filed lawsuits against eight polluters across New Jersey as part of the state’s new push for cleaner environments in low-income and minority communities.
Polluters in Camden, Newark and Trenton were among those targeted in the state’s first-ever “environmental justice” initiative aimed at helping urban areas that face a disproportionate amount of pollution, Attorney General Gurbir Grewal and DEP Commissioner Catherine McCabe announced Thursday.
“Our first-of-its-kind statewide environmental justice action should make one thing clear to the polluters that have run amok in these communities: Not on our watch,” Grewal said in a statement.
The state wants to force companies to take a number of actions, including cleaning up soil and groundwater contamination and paying financial penalties.
In Camden, where the median household income is $26,000, the state sued Monk’s Amoco, a gas station service station. An auto repair shop now operates at the property.
In 1984, gasoline seeped into the basement of a neighboring tavern, the state said. The owner, Hooper Monk, did not comply with DEP directives. Since then, the state said it has removed seven underground storage tanks from the site and installed a groundwater recovery system. It’s seeking to recoup that money.
“For too long the residents of urban areas and other communities have not had their voices heard and have had to bear the burden of disproportionate sources of pollution and the consequent health effects,” McCabe said.
Environmental groups praised the initiative.
Jeff Tittel, New Jersey Sierra Club director, said in a statement that the communities that face the most pollution are those that cannot afford clean-up costs.
“For the first time in a decade, New Jersey is putting some force back into enforcement,” Tittel said. “This is the first step to hold polluters and violators of environmental law accountable.”