A lawsuit filed against a New Jersey town and county and the Army Corps of Engineers over the nearly $80 million cleanup of a Raritan Bay Superfund site can proceed, a federal judge ruled this week.
U.S. District Judge Michael Shipp's ruling means that NL Industries can continue its attempt to divide the costs of the cleanup of the site in the Laurence Harbor section of Old Bridge Township. The defendants include Old Bridge, Middlesex County, the Army Corps and more than two dozen individual companies that NL Industries claims are responsible for the contamination.
The federal Environmental Protection Agency last year announced NL Industries was responsible for lead pollution at the site dating back decades and was liable for a cleanup estimated at $78.7 million, according to court filings. The company had operated a smelting plant in nearby Perth Amboy.
NL Industries sued, claiming it never dumped any material at the site and that the state, county and township allowed a developer to build a seawall with soil contaminated by used batteries, scrap metals and other waste trucked from its plant by a third party.
NL Industries is suing the state in a separate action in state Superior Court, said Christopher Gibson, an attorney representing the company.
"We are focused on making the parties that are, in my opinion, more responsible for what's happened over the last 40 years pay their fair share,'' Gibson said Thursday.
Parts of the beach have been closed for several years, after the EPA and state Department of Environmental Protection found elevated levels of lead in the soil and surface water. In the fall of 2012, Superstorm Sandy caused extensive damage to the site and spread hundreds of tons of potentially contaminated debris around a waterfront park.
NL Industries claims in court filings that the county and township were aware that developer Sea-Land was building a seawall using lead-contaminated soil in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and that the township's engineer had raised questions about possible environmental effects as early as 1973.
A spokesman for the Army Corps of Engineers and attorneys for Old Bridge Township and Middlesex County didn't return emails seeking comment Thursday.