New Jersey Licensed Site Remediation Professionals for Cleanup of Contaminated Sites
A recent decision by the New Jersey Appellate Division greatly expands the potential liability of current and former property owners under the New Jersey Spill Compensation and Control Act. Now more than ever, having the assistance of a licensed site remediation professional (LSRP) is critical to maintaining compliance with New Jersey environmental law. With certified underground storage tank (UST) installers and contractors on staff as well as LSRPs, Herbert Lutz & Company is perfectly situated to provide comprehensive, turnkey service in all aspects of UST installation, removal, closure and maintenance, as well as site remediation and cleanup in the face of release and contamination.
New Jersey Spill Act Liability
The New Jersey Spill Compensation and Control Act was passed specifically to control the transfer and storage of gasoline and to provide liability for any damage caused by a discharge of petroleum products and other hazardous substances. The Act requires prompt containment and removal of pollution, along with compensation to businesses and others harmed by the discharge. Former industrial sites that are vacant or underutilized due to contamination are to be cleaned up so they can be safely returned to productive use.
NJDEP can direct a discharger to clean up and remove the discharge, but the party has the right to seek contribution against all others who are in any way responsible for the contamination. The Act authorizes the court to allocate the costs of cleanup and removal among liable parties using such equitable factors as the court determines appropriate.
Court Expands Liability to Parties Unconnected to Discharge
Up to now the courts have required some nexus or connection between a present or former property owner and the discharge and contamination in order to require the party to chip in for cleanup costs. The New Jersey Appellate Division reversed this course in a surprise decision in 2017. In this case, Matejek v. Watson, the court required multiple parties to participate in the investigation of contamination despite a lack of evidence linking them to the contamination. Once the actual cause of the contamination is known, costs can be reapportioned, and innocent parties can seek reimbursement of their costs from the guilty party. This, of course, requires the parties to expend resources on investigation and then further foot the bill for litigation to hopefully recover those costs if they are successful in court.
This decision seems to go against the New Jersey Supreme Court’s 2012 decision in NJDEP v. Dimant, which required a nexus between the discharge and the contamination in order to require a party to remediate.
NJDEP had always argued for a broad interpretation of the Spill Act, but prior to the Matejek decision, trial and appellate courts, and even the Supreme Court, had required the Department to show a party’s connection between contamination and discharge. Now it seems that current owners charged with investigation may try to spread the cost to prior owners and neighbors, without any evidence they may be liable. If you are caught up in this situation, you may have to choose between fighting the attempt to include you in the investigation, or sharing in the investigation costs and later fighting to recoup your costs against the truly liable party.
Here for You and All Your Site Remediation Needs
The obligation for responsible parties to remediate contaminated sites in a timely manner was established in the Site Remediation Reform Act, which became fully effective for all covered entities in 2012. This law created the category of LSRP professionals and requires all remediations to go forward under the supervision of an LSRP.
Herbert Lutz & Company has Licensed Site Remediation Professionals on staff ready to assist in site cleanup. With 100 years of experience in UST installation and removal and all related activities, our team of licensed and certified professionals are ready to assist you in any site remediation that may be required.
Call Herbert Lutz & company at 908-862-8888 for experienced and successful site remediation from a New Jersey Licensed Site Remediation Professional.