March 23, 2010
The Star Ledger
Secaucus Crowne Plaza Hotel owner admits dumping sewage into Hackensack River
By Brian T. Murray
SECAUCUS -- The corporate owner of the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Secaucus pleaded guilty today to pumping sewage-laced water into the Hackensack River, under a plea-deal by which the company must pay a $75,000 penalty to the environmental watchdog group that uncovered the pollution.
RD Secaucus LLC, which does business as Crowne Plaza Hotel and Rosdev Hospitality Secaucus, must pay the Hackensack Riverkeeper, a group that led the state Attorney Generalís Division of Criminal Justice to launch an investigation last May and ultimately indict the company in September on a charge of violating the New Jersey Water Pollution Control Act.
The hotel, through an attorney, pleaded guilty before Superior Court Judge Lourdes Santiago in Jersey City to a reduced offense, maintaining that sewer pipe leaks and troubles that lead to pollution reaching the river occurred under prior management.
"There was no evidence to indicate that a sanitary line leak ever occurred under the hotel under our present ownership and management," read a statement the hotel issued today. "After nine months of extensive engineering studies, monitoring, and installation of new automatic pumping equipment, we today resolved allegations first brought to our attention by state environmental authorities back in 2009."
Under the agreement, the hotel must pay the Riverkeeper $15,000 a year for the next five years, implement a program to better handle waste-water at the hotel and retain an environmental consultant approved by the division to monitor the hotel waste flow.
"Itís a validation of what we do," said Riverkeeper Bill Sheehan, led investigators to an underground tunnel system by which raw sewage leaking from hotel pipes was being flushed into the river. "Weíve worked with the state Attorney Generalís Office on other environmental crimes and I think they are confident in our ability to deliver solid cases. This is one less source of pollution in the Hackensack River, and I think the river is all the better for it."
In June 2009, when state investigators visited the hotel, they discovered employees had rigged a pump in a grate-covered pit beside the hotel to run the sewage-laced waste water leaking from hotel pipes through a hose and across a grassy area to the riverbank, according to the state Division of Criminal Justice.
The hotel, however, contended the system was rigged during a series of repairs done in 1999 and 2000, before the current corporate ownership took over.
"The source of the water in the pit since that time involves rain water and groundwater that periodically enters the back pit," the hotel said. "The water in the pit is now being pumped under government supervision."