LODI — The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection has filed a lawsuit seeking damages against Connecticut-based Hexcel Corporation, which for 13 years operated a manufacturing plant in this Bergen County borough where storage tanks leaked fuel and toxic chemicals into the groundwater.

In a release Monday, the state Office of the Attorney General said another defendant, Fine Organics Corporation of Clifton, is named as a second entity in the suit. Fine Organics acquired the Lodi site from Hexcel in 1986, and ran it for another 12 years before operations were curtailed.

OAG said remediation of the site has been completed, but that the groundwater was previously contaminated by volatile organic compounds, polychlorinated biphenyls, and petroleum products that "move quickly through urban environments, often causing harmful chemical vapors to seep into homes and businesses."

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The chemicals in question, according to state officials, pose increased risk for immune, reproductive, nervous, or endocrine system damage, cancer, kidney dysfunction, respiratory tract irritation, or cognitive or neurological problems.

While the remediation as of 2016 had removed 8,500 cubic yards of contaminated soil and 53,000 gallons of groundwater, OAG said, the groundwater has not returned to pre-contamination conditions and is not expected to until 2041.

No specific ill health effects on area residents, if any have been reported, were mentioned in the release, but OAG said the community has a significant low-income, minority population and is "overburdened" as per the terms of the state's Environmental Justice Law.

In addition to seeking financial damages, the lawsuit also alleges that both Hexcel and Fine Organics committed unlawful trespass, and created a public nuisance.

Patrick Lavery is a reporter and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at patrick.lavery@townsquaremedia.com

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