November 13, 2009
NEWSTRACKER: Hotel owners plead not guilty to dumping sewage
By Scott Fallon
What's new: The owners of the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Secaucus have pleaded not guilty to charges that they deliberately dumped raw sewage into the Hackensack River from January 2008 to June 2009.
Background: State investigators raided the hotel in June after they were contacted by the Hackensack Riverkeeper group. Its director, Bill Sheehan, had received a tip about the alleged dumping from a hotel worker. Investigators took samples of wastewater from a grate-covered pit next to the hotel and found it contained sewage and other pollutants. That same day, the Department of Environmental Protection ordered the hotel to cease pumping wastewater from the pit.
Three months later, a grand jury handed up an indictment charging the owner, RD Secaucus LLC, with third-degree unlawful discharge of a pollutant. Prosecutors said hotel staff would lower a pump into the pit, drag a hose across grass and put it into the river at least once a week for 18 months.
Authorities could not say why one of the more upscale hotels in the area would allegedly do this.
The indictment did not name any individuals. The company, which pleaded not guilty on Oct. 19, faces millions of dollars in fines. A spokesman for the hotel did not respond to a request for comment.
What's next: A status conference is scheduled on Jan. 11 before state Superior Court Judge Lourdes Santiago in Hudson County.
— Scott Fallon
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