AG files ‘environmental justice’ lawsuits against Secaucus business, former Kearny gas station

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The New Jersey Attorney General’s Office has filed “environmental justice” lawsuits against a Secaucus food waste recycling business and the site of a former Kearny gas station near the Arlington Diner.

The parking lot of the Arlington Diner in North Arlington. Photo courtesy of the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

“From Day One of the Murphy Administration, we’ve been committed to ensuring that all New Jersey residents can enjoy clean air, clean drinking water and a safe environment,” state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said in a statement.

“That’s environmental justice, and everyone deserves it. The cases we’re announcing today are only the latest actions we’ve taken to deliver on our commitment to environmental justice, and the latest reminder to polluters that they will be held accountable – whether they’re illegally dumping waste in our cities or polluting our fields and rivers.”

The state’s complaint against defendant Wilenta Feed, Inc., alleges violation of the State’s Water Pollution Control Act. Wilenta operates a food waste recycling business at 46 Henry Street in Secaucus that involves converting food waste – largely bakery products – into animal feed or animal feed ingredients.

According to the complaint, Wilenta has been unlawfully storing its food waste in open-air piles, thereby exposing the waste to stormwater, which enters the sewer system and, ultimately, into such surface water bodies as Penhorn Creek, a tributary of the Hackensack River.

In addition to seeking a court order directing Wilenta to halt its open-air storage of food waste, today’s lawsuit seeks civil penalties against Wilenta and reimbursement to the state for costs it has incurred, or will incur, to investigate, inspect and monitor the property.

“To further the promise of environmental justice, we must aggressively enforce our laws in communities disproportionately burdened by pollution,” added Acting New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Shawn LaTourette.

“Enforcement actions like these embody our commitment to protecting vulnerable communities and make clear the consequences for creating or contributing to environmental injustice. My DEP colleagues and I are grateful to Attorney General Grewal and his team for their passion for equity and their partnership in action.”

As for the Kearny matter, the state’s complaint against Isaac Moradi centers on a former gas station at 941 Passaic Ave. in Kearny that backs up to an embankment of the Passaic River and that was contaminated with petroleum products including gasoline prior to Moradi’s acquisition of the property in 2016.

According to the allegations put forth by the state, an investigation of the property in 2007 revealed significant contamination of groundwater and soil, much of it ultimately traced to an out of service, 12,000-gallon underground fuel storage tank.

The state’s lawsuit also alleges violation of the Spill Compensation and Control Act and the common law of public nuisance, and while Moradi did not pollute the land, he is still responsible for the cleanup.

The AG’s Office also announced the filing of lawsuits in Butler, Camden, Trenton, Edison, Bridgeton, Egg Harbor City, and Vineland.