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Edison residents sue Chevron for alleged contamination
By Jack Murtha
General Media Newspapers (January 17, 2014)
EDISON — Several residents have filed a civil lawsuit against Chevron Corp. for damages that allegedly stemmed from the company’s discharge of hazardous materials, which are said to have contaminated several properties off New York Boulevard.
“This case is not just about contamination; it is about being a good neighbor,” attorney Shawn LaTourette, who represents the residents, said via email. “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.”
Chevron, a gasoline and energy company based in California, operated its Ortho Division chemical plant on a parcel in South Plainfield from 1952 to 1985.
During that time, Chevron polluted the soil and groundwater with dangerous substances, including organichlorine pesticides, according to the amended complaint, which was filed in state Superior Court on Jan. 7.
The chemicals tainted the nearby 15-acre Abramson Tract, which borders the plaintiffs’ properties. Toxins eventually reached seven residential lots, according to the complaint.
The “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 alleges.
Chevron owns both the site on which it operated and the Abramson Tract. The company has cleaned the chemical plant site through the removal of 20,000 tons of pesticide ridden soil, and remedial monitoring continues, according to the complaint.
Stan Luckoski, a public affairs manager for Chevron, said the company voluntarily took more than 120 soil samples at eight properties on New York Boulevard. A consultant who was chosen by the residents collected, reviewed and provided the samples to those individuals, Luckoski said.
“The state’s licensed site remediation professional reviewed all of the data and concluded that the remediation was completed in compliance with requirements that are protective of public health, safety and the environment, and that no remediation is required on any of the properties,” Luckoski said.
Federal officials have said they are confident that the remediation professional is taking the appropriate actions to manage the cleanup, according to Luckoski.
Chevron is facing one count of negligence, one count of creating a private nuisance, one count of creating a public nuisance, one count of trespass, one count of violating the state Spill Compensation and Control Act, and one count of a state Environmental Rights Act claim.
The 14 residents are seeking injunctive relief to remediate their properties, compensatory relief for damages caused to home values and quality of life, declarations of wrongdoing by the court, and for fines and penalties to be waged against Chevron.
For the count of negligence, the plaintiffs allege that Chevron was aware of the dangers posed by the chemicals that it handled, but still released the substances. In addition, the complaint claims, the defendant’s remedial actions failed to fully address the problem.
According to the complaint Chevron officials should have foreseen the possibility of contamination on the New York Boulevard parcels, and they did not “adequately warn plaintiffs of the risk of harm to human health and property.”
The plaintiffs allege that Chevron caused a private nuisance through its intrusion onto the residential properties. That caused significantly negative impacts on the homeowners’ ability to use and enjoy their land, according to the document.
Chevron allegedly spurred a public nuisance through its contamination of groundwater, which represents a risk to public health, safety, comfort and convenience, according to the complaint.
“Plaintiffs are uniquely situated to enforce the public’s right to natural resources free from contamination,” the complaint reads.
For the count of trespass, the residents maintain that each discharge of pollutants onto private property constitutes an intrusion.
The plaintiffs claim that Chevron violated the state Spill Compensation and Control Act through the discharge of hazardous substances. Under the law, individuals who are affected by spills may sue the offender for damages related to remedial action and site investigation.
The state Environmental Rights Act allows victims to seek injunctive relief from entities that cause such calamities, according to the complaint.