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U.S. District Court Allows NJ Superfund Site Suit to Proceed

Earlier this month, U.S. District Court Judge Michael Shipp ruled that lead smelting company NL Industries (formerly National Lead) may maintain an action against over two dozen defendants for contribution relating to the clean-up of the Raritan Bay Slag Superfund site.

The site in question includes the Laurence Harbor seawall adjacent to Waterfront Park in Old Bridge Township, the western jetty in Sayreville, including sections of the Cheesequake Creek Inlet proceeding into the Raritan Bay, and a section of about 50 acres of Margaret’s Creek. NL Industries historically operated a smelting plant in Perth Amboy, near the Superfund site. The site was added to the Superfund list in 2009 after state and federal environmental officials discovered high levels of lead in the Raritan Bay near the site. Officials also closed large parts of the nearby beach and Waterfront Park in response.

In 2012, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ordered NL Industries to conduct an environmental clean-up of the site. EPA contended that NL Industries was responsible for decades of lead pollution in the area and ordered the company to pay for the estimated $78.7 million clean-up.

In response, NL Industries filed suit against Old Bridge Township, Middlesex County, the Army Corps of Engineers and some two dozen individual companies which, according to NL Industry’s attorney, are “more responsible” for the costs of environmental remediation at the site. In the District Court’s recent decision, Judge Shipp dismissed NL’s claims under the New Jersey Spill Act, stating that NL had not yet spent any money on the clean-up, a requirement of a contribution claim under the statute. However, the District Court permitted NL’s claims pursuant to the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (“CERCLA”) to continue.

The attorneys at Lieberman Blecher & Sinkevich P.C. regularly assist clients with environmental issues that arise in the context of site remediation and claims involving both CERCLA and the Spill Act. In addition, our attorneys are highly experienced in areas of land use, real estate, redevelopment, and regulatory permitting, compliance, and enforcement. We have assisted many property owners (both plaintiffs and defendants) in contribution actions under the Spill Act and our attorneys are poised to address the impact of this recent decision in present and future cases.


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