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Unlikely Allies Unite to Oppose Two Dirty Water Bills

Date : Wed, 19 Jun 2013 11:54:33 -0400


For Immediate Release

June 19, 2013

Contact:Jeff Tittel, NJ Sierra Club, 609-558-9100 <tel:609-558-9100>

Hal Bozarth, Chemistry Council of New Jersey, 609-392-4214

Unlikely Allies Unite to Oppose*Two Dirty Water Bills

Today the Chemical Council of New Jersey joined a coalition of environmental groups expressing their concerns with two bills that would change regulations for hazardous waste.The organizations wrote a letter to EPA region 2 Administrator Judith Enck requesting the EPA review the bills and urge leadership in the NJ Legislature to hold the bills due to potential violations of the Clean Water Act, the delegation of RCRA and CERCLA (Superfund), and the Memorandum of Agreement between New Jersey and EPA.Under these bills sewage sludge would no longer be considered hazardous, diminishing the State's ability to require clean ups by sewage authorities and local governments under the Spill Act.Sewage systems including industrial dischargers, pump and treatment systems, and pretreatment discharges would be exempted from liability and indemnified.

"This is the first time that the environmental and business community have been so united in opposition to a bill because it is that bad,"
said Jeff Tittel, Director NJ Sierra Club."This has nothing to do with the Passaic River litigation as those cases are just about settled.This is about rolling back the Clean Water and Spill Acts and allowing sewage authorities and municipal government to pollute without any accountability.It is like using a chainsaw to remove a splinter instead of tweezers."

"Local governments operate landfills, have chemical storage facilities and operate public works garages, and can discharge contaminants through leaking underground tanks, spills and the willful discharge of sewage and hazardous wastewater to the environment," said Hal Bozarth, executive director of the Chemistry Council of New Jersey.
"Municipalities should be held to the same standards and level of accountability as any entity that is responsible for unlawful environmental contamination. Liability under the Spill Act for wrongful actions would disappear for local governments under these bills and the responsibility for these parties to pay their fair share of clean up costs would be abolished. Exempting any entity from liability is simply a bad idea."

The Sewage Pollution Bill S2094 (Ruiz) clarifies that certain types of sewage and sewage sludge discharged from a public sewer system or treatment plant are not hazardous substances for purposes of the "Spill Compensation and Control Act". Currently industrial waste and toxic chemicals are included in the definition of sewage sludge but this bill would change that. Whole sewage systems could be exempt including if pipes break or pumping stations fail to work. During Hurricane Sandy over 20% of our sewer treatment plants failed, resulting in the largest discharges of sewage since the passage of the Clean Water Act.We should be strengthening regulations, not weakening them. These spills have caused tremendous implications and to not be able to hold these plants liable for the damage done to the environment, fisheries, and our health not only undercuts environmental enforcement, but hurts property that has been affected. This bill also guts the Spill Act since government entities have been a major source of chemical spills and pollution in the state of New Jersey.

  "This legislation is not only a threat to the Clean Water Act but to every major waterway in the state of New Jersey. Under this bill sewage authorities will be able to dump sewage sludge or partially treated sewage into our waterways and not be held accountable. This legislation is a threat to clean water and our environment," said Jeff Tittel.

Many of these facilities receive toxic chemicals from Superfund Sites or other hazardous sites. They also receive industrial wastes from factories including toxic and hazardous materials making this an even bigger potential public health issue. These plants could also be accepting waste from fracking operations.This bill will allow public entities to keep polluting without any consequence and with no deterrent to do the right thing since there is no liability.

The second bill, S2322 (Scutari), prohibits contribution action against a local government agency for cleanup and removal costs or any other damages associated with discharge of hazardous substance.This legislation prevents people, companies or other entities from suing government agencies like sewage authorities for toxic pollution.If passed the bill would prevent these facilities from being sued for triple damages.

"We strongly oppose this legislation as it will lead to more toxic catastrophe in New Jersey and more contaminated sites. This legislation exempts any local governmental facility from the Spill Act.Basically the bill says that all government agencies or sewage authorities can spill toxic chemicals with no consequence. People can get their wells polluted or property damaged and they can do nothing about it," said Jeff Tittel.

The Sierra Club challenges the constitutionality of both bills as they would establish different classes between public and private entities and facilities. Under this bill if a person or corporation spills chemicals they can be sued and held liable, but not a governmental entity. Setting up two classes where one is held accountable and one is not makes this bill unconstitutional.

Other business groups have testified against the bill before the Senate Environment Committee including New Jersey Business and Industry Association, New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, and Commerce and Industry Association of New Jersey.Other environmental groups opposing the legislation and signed onto to letter to EPA includeDelaware Riverkeeper Network, New Jersey Environmental Lobby , Raritan Headwaters Association, and New Jersey Environmental Federation.

Kate Millsaps
Conservation Program Coordinator
NJ Chapter of the Sierra Club
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Received on 2013-06-19 08:54:33

New Jersey Sierra Club, 145 West Hanover St., Trenton, NJ 08618, USA
tel: 609 656 7612, fax 609 656 7618
or email Nicole Dallara, Outreach Coordinator, at nicole.dallara@sierraclub.org

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