New Jersey Companies Sued by Feds for Recovery of Response Costs Under CERCLA

The federal government filed suit against defendants ISP Environmental Services Inc. (IES) and G-I Holdings Inc. (G-I) on Thursday in the District of New Jersey. The complaint seeks relief for the defendant’s alleged violation of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980, or CERCLA.

The complaint said that CERCLA was enacted in 1980 and is intended to “provide a comprehensive governmental mechanism for abating releases and threatened releases of hazardous substances and other pollutants and contaminants and for funding the costs of such abatement and related enforcement activities [response actions].”

The defendants own and operate properties at the LCP site, which is located on the Tremley Point peninsula in Linden, Union County, New Jersey. Hazardous substances like mercury have been recorded at the site as early as the 1950’s. Each of the defendants is a successor to GAF, which was the owner and operator of the site at the time of the disposal of hazardous substances.

The EPA conducted a pre-remedial investigation at the LCP site in early 1995, which revealed the presence of mercury in the soil. 3 years later, the EPA placed the LCP site on the national priorities list for “long-term evaluation and response among the known releases or threatened releases of hazardous substances, pollutants, or contaminants.” A general notice letter and notice of negotiations for the remedial investigation and feasibility study was sent to the potentially responsible parties, which included the defendants.

The EPA issued a record of decision indicating their selected remedy for the LCP site in February of 2014. The selected remedy was based off the defendant’s submitted remedial investigation and feasibility studies, which “confirmed the presence of mercury and other hazardous substances,” including arsenic, lead, and polychlorinated biphenyls.

IES initially denied being a liable party under CERCLA, but the complaint argues that IES’s noncompliance subjects them to civil penalties and punitive damages. As of September 2021, the EPA asserted that they had incurred over $5 million in response costs at the LCP site, which they contend IES and G-I are liable for under CERCLA.

The complaint cites three claims for relief under CERCLA (recovery of response costs, civil penalties for failure without sufficient cause to comply with the order, and punitive damages for failure without sufficient cause to comply with the order). The plaintiff is seeking favorable judgment on each count, civil penalties, punitive damages, litigation fees, and any other relief deemed appropriate by the Court.