AG’s office, DEP, target two Jersey City businesses in ‘environmental justice’ lawsuits

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The New Jersey Attorney General’s Office, along with the state Department of Environmental Protection, has targeted two Jersey City businesses in a swath of “environmental justice” lawsuits filed across the state.

125 Monitor Street in Jersey City. Photo courtesy of the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

“Today’s twelve lawsuits, filed in cities and towns across our state, are a reflection of that commitment to environmental justice principles,” Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said in a statement.

“The scourge of COVID-19 has put a harsh spotlight on the way environmental injustices affect our basic health, and we’re going to do the hard work necessary to protect communities from dumping, contamination and other illegal activities. The message to New Jersey residents should be clear: everyone, and I really mean everyone, deserves to breathe clean air and live in a safe environment.”

These lawsuits are a part of the state’s comprehensive justice agenda to address harms disproportionately affecting the public and environmental health of New Jersey’s low-income, non-English speaking and minority residents, the AG’s office said today.

Additionally, many of the properties that are the subject of today’s complaints have pollutants known to contribute to health problems including respiratory tract irritation, chronically reduced lung function, kidney problems, neurological disorders and certain cancers, which may only exacerbate COVID-19 risks.

The first Jersey City location is 111-113 Tonnelle Ave., the Heba Auto Repair.

The auto repair store allegedly engaged in gasoline contamination, specifically via underground storage tanks removed without necessary permits. The site is also alleged to have been back-filled with gasoline-contaminated soil.

Furthermore, the owners – Fathi Hassanein and Alia Hassanein – are not complying with DEP site investigation/remediation orders, according to the lawsuit filed against them in Hudson County Superior Court this morning.

The other location is 125 Monitor Street JC, LLC. They are accused of soil and groundwater contamination with arsenic, copper, lead, petroleum, PCE and TCE, based on the court filing against them.

“The actions the DEP is taking today exemplify the Murphy Administration’s deep commitment to principles of environmental justice and equity that strengthen all of our communities, especially those most vulnerable to environmental harm,” added DEP Commissioner Catherine McCabe.

“Together, we are holding accountable those who, by design or circumstance, disproportionately harm the environment and communities of our low-income and minority neighbors. Today’s lawsuits complement the many ways that we pursue environmental justice, standing with every New Jersey community and for the shared natural resources that unite us.”

The complaints seek a variety of remedies, including clean-up of contaminated properties and compliance with all outstanding DEP orders, payment of damages and penalties, reimbursement to the state for clean-up costs expended to date and, in certain instances, natural resource damages.