Hackensack Riverkeeper and the New City Neighborhood Association target local polluters

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Lawsuit Alleges Seneca Meadows, Waste Connections and West Nyack Transfer Station Violate Clean Water Law

By Tina Traster

For the second time in a month, the New City Neighborhood Association of Rockland County and the New Jersey-based Hackensack Riverkeeper Inc. have filed complaints against businesses and county entities for violating federal land tenure law. clean water.

The lawsuit, filed against Seneca Meadows Inc, Waste Connections US. Inc., Waste Connections of New York Inc and the West Nyack Transfer Station were filed on September 14 in U.S. District Court in White Plains. The lawsuit says the defendants discharge polluted runoff from a scrap metal processing plant and recycling facility.

All three entities are located at 183 Western Highway at the West Nyack Transfer Station. Waste Connections is a national solid waste collection, transfer, recycling and disposal service. Seneca is a waste management and recycling facility.

The defendants are primarily engaged in the assembly, dismantling, sorting and wholesale distribution of scrap metal and waste, according to the lawsuit. Metal recycling facilities, especially those with outdoor storage, treatment and separation of materials, are a major source of stormwater contamination. Scrap metal in different stages of corrosion and decomposition can release a variety of harmful substances including heavy metals, fuel, oil, lubricants, polychlorinated biphenyls, grease, lead acid, lead oxides, chlorinated solvents, asbestos and ethylene.

The combination also targets the operation and maintenance of vehicles and the operation and storage of equipment, including forklifts, trucks and other vehicles that “track debris, particles and other contaminants. “. Vehicles are a source of waterway pollution, including gasoline, diesel fuel, antifreeze, battery fluids and hydraulic fluids, depending on the combination.

August 17e, the New City Neighborhood Association of Rockland County and the New Jersey-based Hackensack Riverkeeper Inc. sued Rockland Transit Mix Inc. for violating federal clean water law in a complaint filed August 17 in White Plains US District Court.

The New City Neighborhood Association of Rockland County and the New Jersey-based Hackensack Riverkeeper Inc. allege that defendants in both lawsuits are polluting the 45-mile-long Hackensack River, which originates at Lake Lucille in New City. and flows into Newark Bay. From its sources, the Upper Hackensack River flows into several man-made reservoirs, including Lake DeForest in Clarkstown, Lake Tappan on the New York / New Jersey border, and then into the Oradell Reservoir.

Stormwater flowing over certain areas of the facility potentially releases a variety of pollutants into the Hackensack River, including sediments, oils and greases, metals, organics and chemicals that create a chemical oxygen demand. or change the pH of receiving waters and other pollutants.

Both lawsuits allege inadequate pollution control measures, a stormwater prevention plan and the release of pollutants that cause or contribute to violations of water quality standards. The plaintiffs allege in the previous lawsuit that whenever it rains or snows, contaminants from the concrete company drip into a tributary of the Hackensack River and ultimately flow into Newark Bay, the harbor of New York and the Atlantic Ocean. All industrial operations store and process scrap metal, and maintain traffic and vehicles, which contributes to stormwater runoff.

Complainants say they are frustrated by the inaction of the federal government or the state of New York. Neither the US Environmental Protection Agency nor New York State “has taken civil or criminal action to redress the violations,” the organizations said.

The New York Department of Environmental Conservation has designated the Hackensack River as “weathered” to meet minimum water quality standards for biological impacts. DEC has classified the portion of the Hackensack River where the facility discharges as Class A water. A designated Class A water body is a source of water supply for consumption, cooking, or processing. food, primary and secondary contact recreation and fishing. These waters are also believed to be suitable for the propagation and survival of fish, crustaceans and wildlife.

One of the most significant sources of water pollution, according to the complaint, is stormwater runoff from industrial sites. The Clean Water Act requires industrial sites to obtain a stormwater permit, limit pollutant discharges and monitor stormwater.

In 1987, to better regulate pollution from stormwater runoff, Congress enacted the Clean Water Act Section 402 (p), 33 USC § 1342 (p), entitled “Municipal and Industrial Stormwater Discharges”.

Stormwater runoff is one of the largest sources of water pollution in the country – comparable to, if not greater than, contamination from industrial sources and sewers, according to the lawsuit.

Both complaints indicate that New York State has designated more than 7,000 river miles as “tampered with”; 319,000 acres of larger water bodies; 940 square miles of harbors, bays and estuaries; 10 miles of coastal shoreline; and 592 miles from the Great Lakes shoreline. Under the Clean Water Act, “impaired” means failing to meet water quality standards and / or being unable to support beneficial uses, such as fish habitat and water contact recreation. . For the overwhelming majority of water bodies listed as weathered, stormwater runoff is cited as the main source of the weathering pollutants.

The New City Neighborhood Association is a non-profit educational association that focuses on important issues and the preservation of quality of life and was founded in 2017 by Timothy Halo, a New City resident.

Hackensack Riverkeeper, based in Hackensack, New Jersey, spends approximately $ 700,000 per year to restore and preserve the Hackensack River watershed according to its 2019 federal nonprofit tax return. Founded in 1997, Hackensack Riverkeeper has helped revive the ecology of the Meadowlands, bringing recreation like kayaking and eco-tours to the lower reaches of the river and struggling to preserve the lands upstream.

The plaintiffs are asking the court to declare the company in violation of the Clean Water Act, to prevent it from discharging pollutants and to force it to apply for a permit for stormwater. They are asking for unspecified civil penalties and note in the complaint that violators can be assessed up to $ 56,460 per day per violation.

Waste Connections did not return calls seeking comment.

The nonprofit groups are represented by Manhattan attorney Edan Rotenberg.

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