New Jersey recently announced seven new enforcement actions in environmental justice communities across the state. The actions come as the state prepares to close the comment period on proposed rules that set stringent new permitting requirements for pollution-generating facilities located in overburdened communities.
Six of the lawsuits center on a broad array of chemical pollutants that have impacted sites in Newark, Linden, Ewing, Rahway, Elmwood Park Borough, and Middlesex Borough. Those communities are considered overburdened under New Jersey’s Landmark Environmental Justice (EJ) Law because they have significant low-income, minority, and/or limited English proficiency populations.
The seventh lawsuit centers on a blueberry farm and processing facility that employs migrant workers who live on site. The facility is allegedly using unsafe drinking water wells and unpermitted septic systems on the property.
“In New Jersey, we are confronting the historic injustices that have burdened low-income and minority communities with a disproportionate amount of pollution,” says Commissioner of Environmental Protection Shawn LaTourette. “Our commitment to furthering the promise of environmental justice sometimes demands that we take legal action to correct the legacy of pollution that underserved communities have endured.”
LaTourette adds that the lawsuits send an important message to polluters: “Treat every New Jersey community as though it were your own by leaving your neighbors and their environment better than you found them.”
The comment period on the state’s proposed EJ rules closes on September 4. The state is aiming to finalize the rules in December.