231 Main Street
Hackensack, NJ 07601
February 22, 2005
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Captain Bill Sheehan
Honeywell International Loses Appeal To Allow Pollution To Remain
“We had a good case two years ago, we got a landmark ruling from Judge Cavanaugh and we fully expected it to be upheld on appeal,” said Captain Bill Sheehan, Hackensack Riverkeeper’s executive director. “What we didn’t expect was the slam-dunk we got from the appellate court.”
The earlier ruling came in response to a lawsuit brought against Honeywell by Hackensack Riverkeeper and the Jersey City-based Interfaith Community Organization (ICO). The plaintiffs successfully argued that the health and safety of Society Hill condominium residents were in danger as long as the contamination was allowed to remain. The suit was prompted by over twenty years of foot-dragging on the part of the corporation, which had maintained that simply capping the contamination was sufficient and that its removal was unnecessary.
“Enough time has been spent in the history of this matter, and the time for a cleanup has come,” said Judge Franklin Van Antwerpen, who authored the ruling.
From 1895 through 1954, the Mutual Chemical Company of America operated a chromate chemical plant on the site. In addition to its refined products, the company also produced approximately 1.5 million tons of toxic waste containing hexavalent chromium (well-known to millions because of the film Erin Brockovitch) that was dumped onsite. In 1954, Mutual sold the property to the Allied Corporation (later AlliedSignal, Inc.). Honeywell took title to the site (and assumed its liabilities) after its merger with AlliedSignal.
According to court records, while all that was going on, a known human carcinogen was freely leaching into the Hackensack River. A 1982 NJ Department of Environmental Protection report cited a “green stream” and “yellowish-green plumes” in surface water on the property. Even a Honeywell official noted at the time “there’s something terribly not right with the site” where the toxic waste lies twenty feet deep in some places.
It its appeal, Honeywell attempted to prove that the District Court:
As in the previous litigation, the Washington DC-based law firm of Terris, Pravlik and Milian represented the plaintiffs. This time however, partners Bruce Terris and Kathleen L. Milian took the lead role themselves with Terris arguing their case before the Appeals Court.
“Everyone knows that when you buy a house you buy it ‘as is’ and if you wind up with a problem like a leaky oil tank, you’re liable for its cleanup,” explained Captain Sheehan. “What’s fair for John & Jane Q. Public and their underground tank should be fair enough for Honeywell and its 1.5 million tons of chromium waste.”