Petition Drive Launched in Support of Legislation That Will Protect Taxpayers
Thursday, January 31, 2013 • 3:56pm
The Joint Meeting of Essex and Union Counties, a wastewater treatment facility, has launched an online petition campaign to promote the passage of legislation that will clarify the original intent of the New Jersey Spill Compensation and Control Act. Without prompt passage of this legislation, New Jersey’s taxpayers will bear the costs of defending against a lawsuit filed by chemical companies who seek contribution for damages from more than seventy-five (75) municipalities and six (6) public sewage authorities for the alleged discharge of hazardous substances into the Passaic River and Newark Bay. Legal fees and cleanup costs are expected to cost municipalities and the sewage authorities tens of millions of dollars.
The legislation, A3128, sponsored by Assemblywoman L. Grace Spencer, Assemblyman John F. McKeon, and Assemblyman Thomas Giblin was introduced June 21, 2012 and was amended in the Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee and voted through the committee on January 17, 2013. A companion bill, S2094, was introduced in the New Jersey Senate by Senator M. Teresa Ruiz on June 21, 2012.
The petition, Support the NJ Spill Act Bill, may be found on Joint Meeting’s informational websitewww.NJspillactbill.org, which also provides background, frequently asked questions, copies of the legislation, and updates about the issue. In addition to the petition, the site also features a section with information on how to directly contact your state representatives, urging support of the legislation. A Facebook page may also be accessed from a link on the website.
According to Samuel McGhee, Executive Director of Joint Meeting of Essex and Union Counties, “We are encouraged by this step in the legislative process and we urge the citizens of New Jersey to learn more about this important issue and become involved. The State’s legislators need to hear from their constituents who are in favor of the bill’s passage.”
The bill “would clarify that domestic, commercial, or industrial wastewater, sewage, or sewage sludge expelled or released from a public sewer system or a public treatment plant does not constitute a hazardous substance under the Spill Compensation and Control Act.” When enacted the bill will reflect the original intent of the Spill Act. Therefore, treated wastewater from publicly owned treatment plants will fall outside the “hazardous substances” definition and will preclude any Spill Act-based litigation. As a result, financial responsibility will be placed on the appropriate parties that generate pollutants not on the public entities that are servicing a public need through the collection and treatment of domestic and industrial waste.
In 2009, the Joint Meeting was named as a third-party defendant along with five other New Jersey sewage authorities, 75 municipalities, and more than 200 other governmental and private entities in a lawsuit filed under the Spill Compensation and Control Act. In the original lawsuit, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) claimed that several chemical companies, including Occidental Chemical Corporation, intentionally polluted the Passaic River with dioxin and other hazardous substances during the period from 1951 to 1969. Two of these chemical company defendants now seek contribution from government and commercial entities throughout the region to minimize their liability for environmental and economic damages to the region’s waterways. Costs for cleanup of the Passaic River and Newark Bay are estimated in the tens of billions of dollars.
About Joint Meeting
The Joint Meeting of Essex and Union Counties owns and operates a wastewater treatment facility, serving more than 600,000 residents in communities in Essex and Union within a 64-square mile area. Member municipalities include East Orange, Hillside, Irvington, Maplewood, Millburn, Newark, Roselle Park, South Orange, Summit, Union, and West Orange. In addition, the City of Elizabeth and portions of Livingston, Orange, Berkeley Heights, Linden and New Providence are currently served as customer municipalities.