Search Site
Menu
Lieberman Blecher & Sinkevich is Local Counsel

Published: Friday, May 09, 2008

Vineland to get $10M. in settlement of suit

By JULIET FLETCHERM
Staff Writer, 856-237-9020

VINELAND – After four years of class-action legal battles in utmost secrecy, the city has learned it will receive more than $10 million in settlement damages from oil companies accused of polluting local water sources, a city lawyer said Thursday.

In 2004, Vineland joined a class-action lawsuit against companies who used the additive MTBE to oxygenate fuel.

In cases across the country, the additive, which federal regulators have said is a possible carcinogen at high doses, has shown up in groundwater.

City Solicitor Rick Tonetta revealed at Thursday’s City Council work session that a number of the companies named as defendants in the suit had agreed to settle.
The award totaled $15,237,150.57.

After costs and fees are deducted, the total is $10,062,912.34, he said.

The award is the first reported by one of several New Jersey municipalities involved in the action, which was led in the state by Princeton-based environmental attorneys Lieberman Blecher & Sinkevich. Nationally, the partial settlements in 19 states could cost major oil companies, such as Chevron and BP, a reported $423 million.

Tonetta said he made the news public following a deadline that expired Wednesday, ending an opt-out period for settling defendants.

While MTBE, or methyl tertiary-butyl ether, was used to raise the oxygen levels in gasoline, reducing tailpipe emissions in pre-1984 vehicles, Tonetta said the additive has been found to spread quickly and thinly through groundwater. If gas containers or tanks leaked, he said, the chemical could make its way into aquifers.

He stressed that Vineland’s water wells have been updated with “scrubber” processes in the last decade to ensure traces of the chemical have been removed.

Recalling the data he compiled for the case with John Snidenbach, superintendent of the city’s water utility, Tonetta said, “I don’t believe the levels (of MTBE) in our water system did reach a level of concern.”

“However,” he added, “they did cause a smell and a taste.”

City Council President John Barretta praised Tonetta and other city legal staff for the choice to join the suit. “It was a wise decision,” he said.

Council members will consider a resolution to accept the partial settlement and payment at the next meeting.

Meanwhile, 30 percent of the named defendants in the suit have not settled and will likely take the case to court, Tonetta said.

That may spell a holdup for Vineland in receiving the awarded money. Among the companies holding out is gas giant Exxon.

“In court, they may argue the award is unfair to them, as nonsettling defendants,” Tonetta said.

To e-mail Juliet Fletcher at The Press: [email protected]

Our Attorneys

Recent Twitter Posts

  • DEP urged to set tough limit on 1,4-dioxane in drinking water. https://t.co/UESauZowsJ
    1 month ago
  • Beach access issue returns in Cape May County beach community, near the location of a similar issue that was litiga… https://t.co/tWOMcfTqwM
    2 months ago
  • Another effort to make the Delaware Water Gap a national park is underway. https://t.co/C00NZ43nZU
    2 months ago
  • New Jersey seeks designation of Lower Hackensack River as a federal Superfund site. https://t.co/czOI3hDNb2
    2 months ago

Recent Blog Posts

Environmental Hearing Requests by Third Parties: An Update

In 2010 this author contributed an article discussing the difficulty that anyone other than an applicant had in administratively contesting a permit. Stuart J. Lieberman and Shari M. Blecher, “It’s
Read More
Environmental Hearing Requests by Third Parties: An Update

Hoboken cannot block residential development with new zoning ordinances, Supreme Court holds

In Shipyard Assocs., LP v. City of Hoboken, 242 N.J. 23 (2020), the Supreme Court held that the City of Hoboken could not block a waterfront residential development by enacting
Read More
Hoboken cannot block residential development with new zoning ordinances, Supreme Court holds

Long standing land use attorney Michele Donato joins Princeton’s Lieberman Blecher & Sinkevich as “of counsel”

The law firm of Lieberman, Blecher & Sinkevich is  proud to announce that Michele R. Donato, Esq. has become Of Counsel with their firm. Ms. Donato has specialized in land use,
Read More
Long standing land use attorney Michele Donato joins Princeton’s Lieberman Blecher & Sinkevich as “of counsel”

RLUIPA case in SDNY challenges alleged discrimination against Orthodox Jewish community

In December 2020, the Southern District of New York filed a lawsuit under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) against the Village of Airmont. The suit alleges
Read More
RLUIPA case in SDNY challenges alleged discrimination against Orthodox Jewish community

In the media

  • Gulf Coast Town Center facing foreclosure

    Naples Daily News, September 16, 2015

    Wells Fargo filed a lawsuit Sept. 8 against an affiliate of CBL & Associates, the owners of the decadeold, 1.2 million-square-foot mall in south Fort Myers for a $190.9 million unpaid loan. The center has 94 stores on 204 acres, with such anchors as Super Target, Belk, Best Buy, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Marshalls and Costco...

    Read More
  • Town liable for private company's leaking underground tanks, court rules

    NJ.com Jul 26, 2017

    CRANFORD -- A couple that owned a businesses in town and became sick from leaking underground tanks owned by an adjacent business can sue the township for damages because the tanks were partially ...

    Read More
  • Dark Waters: How a Class Action Catapulted NJ to Forefront of 'Forever Chemicals' Battle

    NJ Law Journal Jan 09, 2020

    As property owners become increasingly aware of PFAS contamination, and as individuals exposed to PFAS learn of the health risks associated with exposure, liability will likely affect entire supply chains.

    Read More
  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  4. 4
  5. 5
Contact Our Firm

Quick Contact Form