AG, DEP announce New Day for NJ Environmental Enforcement

The contaminated former Deull Fuel Co. property on Georgia Avenue is one of six sites in the state Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal targeted last year to force cleanup and seek compensatory damages.

ATLANTIC CITY — Attorneys argued in Superior Court Friday over how much rent South Jersey Gas should pay Deull Fuel to access its North Georgia Avenue property for a cleanup.

SJ Gas agreed to reimburse owner John Deull the $1,650 a month he is getting under a current lease, but Deull attorney Julie Negovan, of Philadelphia, said a fair rent would be $10,000 a month. That would also cover about $38,000 a year in property taxes and $2,000 to $3,000 per month in insurance, she said.

The two were recently sued by the state Department of Environmental Protection over contamination at the site, near the Atlantic City Expressway entrance to the city. It’s where Deull Fuel operated for decades and where a manufactured-gas plant — operated by a previous owner — was active in the early 20th century.

Friday’s action was not related to the DEP case, but to a previous dispute between the parties, Negovan said.

The DEP alleges contamination came from both businesses — and perhaps others — and has co-mingled over the decades. It is seeking a complete cleanup of the site and public restitution for losses due to pollution over the years.

“There is no basis for the $10,000,” said SJ Gas attorney Joseph P. McGroarty. “Our position is we are cleaning up Mr. Deull’s waste also. It’s not like we are doing this only for our own good.”

He said Deull is in default with the DEP for failure to complete a cleanup of his property.

But Negovan said Deull ran out of money after doing cleanup activities on its own at the site from 1985 to 2007.

“Deull Services has no liquid assets at all,” she told the judge. “The only asset it owns is this property.”

John Deull testified that in March 2018 he gave his tenant a greatly reduced rent because the man was in financial difficulty, reducing it from as much as $4,000 a month.

SJ Gas agreed to only access the portions of Deull’s property it will clean up, and will not use the rest for access to the site. McGroarty said it would add costs but the company would compromise.

The attorneys also sparred over whether SJ Gas must pay Deull’s attorney fees, whether it must hire a separate Licensed Site Remediation Professional to represent Deull’s interests and whether it should be compelled by the court to clean up all of Deull’s property rather than the portion it has agreed to address.

Judge Christina Smith made no decisions but said she needs more information from both sides. Deull must document all rental information, taxes and insurance costs, and SJ Gas must put in writing its plans to conduct the cleanup without accessing Deull land that will not be remediated.

The parties will hold a phone conference Oct. 19, she said.

Hazardous substances from the operation of the companies in and around 300 N. Georgia Ave. have found their way into groundwater and sediments in the bay nearby, according to the state. Contaminants include polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, naphthalene, benzene, arsenic, cyanide and lead. They are known to cause blood disorders and other serious health problems.

Contact: 609-272-7219 mpost@pressofac.com Twitter @MichelleBPost Facebook.com/EnvironmentSouthJersey

Staff Writer

In my first job after college got paid to read the New York Times and summarize articles for an early online data base. First reporting job was with The Daily Record in Parsippany. I have also worked in nonprofits, and have been with The Press since 1990.

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