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Summit Council Approves City Share of Joint Meeting-Related Passaic River Pollution Settlement

Bob Faszczewski

Wednesday, February 5, 2014 • 9:19am

SUMMIT, NJ—The Summit Common Council on Tuesday unanimously approved the payment of $5,324 to the Joint Meeting of Essex and Union Counties as the city’s portion of the settlement of a lawsuit alleging responsibility for pollution of the Passaic River.

The lawsuit stems from an action by federal and state environmental agencies against Occidental Chemical Corporation and several other firms the agencies believe to be responsible for the dumping of toxic substances into the river in Newark and surrounding communities.

After the charges were made against Occidental and the other firms they, in turn, filed third-party actions against the joint meeting and a number of municipalities and other county and regional governmental agencies the companies alleged also contributed to pollution of the river over the course of a number of years.

The payment authorized by the Summit Council on Tuesday represents 5.6 percent of the total cost of the settlement by the joint meeting, which processes sewer wastes from the Hilltop City and a number of other communities in Union and Essex Counties. According to Councilman Patrick Hurley, the percentage is based on Summit’s usage of the joint meeting. The total joint meeting settlement amounted to about $95,000.

Hurley also noted that the city’s own share of the settlement also amounts to about $95,000.

Entities named in the third party suit reportedly would have been subject to substantially greater payments had the suit proceeded through the courts.

In another action at Tuesday’s meeting, Matthew Buntin took his oath of office as a Summit police sergeant from Mayor Ellen Dickson as his wife Jessica and sons Logan and Grayson looked on.

The governing body also authorized a professional services agreement for $33,925 with the H2M engineering firm of Parsippany to complete a remedial investigation in connection with the May 10, 1999 closure of two former underground storage tanks at the Summit Fire Headquarters.

Council public works chairwoman Sandra Lizza explained that Ten Hoeve Brothers, the firm originally contracted to complete the tank removal, went bankrupt before all state compliance requirements were met. H2M, she said, will determine what work still has to be completed in order to bring the project into completion and compliance with state regulations. Their investigation is expected to be completed by the middle of this year.

The council also introduced ordinances calling for vacation of 50-foot right-of-ways on Middle Avenue and Brantwood Drive. These ordinances are scheduled for public hearings and possible final adoptions on Tuesday, March 4.

Both Dickson and city administrator Chris Cotter said they have been meeting with officials of Jersey Central Power & Light Company to help improve the utility’s response to any power outages that may result from this week’s predicted winter storms.

Cotter said the utility has no way of knowing about individual residential electrical outages unless residents report the outages. This can be done by telephoning 1-888-544-4877 or logging onto the utility’s website, www.firstenergycorp.com.

Dickson added that the utility recently reduced its dividend payment and had its rate request trimmed back by the state Public Utility Commission.

She added, however, that the city is working with the utility in an effort to have some wires in the central business district relocated underground.

On another item, Hurley, who chairs the council public safety committee, said the New Providence Borough Council, on the advice of its borough attorney, recently rejected all bids for the new emergency dispatch center to be located in New Providence but operated jointly by Summit and New Providence.

Hurley added that rebidding will take place shortly and New Providence is expected to award bids on February 24. Following that, construction is expected to be completed around mid-July and September 1 is the target date for opening the facility.

He also said the city and borough expect that Millburn also eventually will join the joint dispatch operation.

 

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