NJ polluter on the hook for $393 million in historic settlement
💧 A proposed settlement involves the cleanup of so-called forever chemicals
💧 PFAS threaten humans and animals through contaminated water supplies
💧 Dozens of NJ water systems still exceed the state's health standards
New Jersey officials have announced what's likely to be the largest financial settlement in state history for a single contaminated site.
A proposed lawsuit settlement made public by the Attorney General's Office and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection on Wednesday includes $393 million in financial commitments from Solvay Specialty Polymers, which will be forced to clean up so-called forever chemicals at and around its West Deptford plant and reimburse the state for damage that's already been done.
The announcement is the result of a years-long effort by New Jersey to get Solvay to address contamination involving PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances), which are used to make products that are waterproof, non-stick, and stain-resistant.
For years, Solvay used Surflon, which contain PFNA and PFOA, during its manufacturing process, officials said. Solvay discharged PFAS through the air and into water, officials said.
PFAS are known as forever chemicals because they don't break down and persist in the body and the environment. They're highly mobile, meaning they can contaminate water supplies from a long distance once they're released into the environment, and they're known to pose significant threats to human and animal health.
"Today we send a clear message to any corporation that exposes New Jersey's communities to PFAS toxins or damages our natural resources with hazardous substances: Make no mistake, you will face consequences for your actions," Attorney General Matthew Platkin said during a press conference about the proposed settlement.
As part of the proposed settlement, Belgium-based Solvay will clean up PFAS and offer compensation— $75 million — for natural resource damages related to drinking water in a 37-square-mile area around its West Deptford facility. It'll also sample for PFAS and other pollutants within the West Deptford area, Platkin said.
And the company will be required to post $214 million so that DEP can complete cleanup should Solvay fail to meet its remediation obligations. For six years, remediation will have to live up to any future PFAS standards set by New Jersey or the federal government.
Another $100 million is earmarked for DEP to address PFAS in certain public water systems, as well as private wells.
PFAS are a statewide issue
"Our PFAS challenges in New Jersey are deep and they are significant. And they won't be resolved by this one action alone," DEP Commissioner Shawn LaTourette said.
Currently, more than 70 public water systems in New Jersey exceed the state's health standards for PFAS. LaTourette noted the federal government is working on even stricter standards than New Jersey's current limits.
Solvay and its former owner/operator were sued by New Jersey in November 2020, after the company did not fully comply with cleanup orders, officials said. Solvay has taken steps to reduce the use and impacts of PFAS at its site since the lawsuit was filed.
The public has 60 days to submit comments on the proposed settlement after it is formally published in the New Jersey Register on Aug. 7. If the proposed settlement is then approved by the court, Solvay will be on the clock to start fulfilling its cleanup and financial obligations.