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Report: Deal May Be Near in Passaic River Cleanup Suit

Towns, businesses would pay small price to escape litigation

A deal has been proposed that would free Newark and dozens of other communities, corporations and government authorities from liability in a lawsuit over Passaic River contamination, The Star-Ledger reported Monday.

The paper obtained a copy of the confidential proposal, which would allow the towns and agencies to settle the suit by paying $95,000 each, funds the communities could provide by foregoing state aid. Businesses would pay $195,000.

The suit had its origins in 2005, when the successors to Diamond Shamrock -- a Lister Avenue firm that manufactured the highly toxic defoliant Agent Orange during the Vietnam War -- was sued by the state Department of Environmental Protection over Passaic River cleanup costs. The federal Environmental Protection Agency is now in the process of removing contaminated sediment from the section of the river near the site, a project expected to cost billions.

Shamrock’s successors filed a countersuit in 2009, accusing hundreds of entities along the waterway of contributing to the pollution in the river. Those communities, businesses and agencies, including the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission, could collectively face millions in legal fees connected to the suit, the paper reported.

News of the deal comes as lawmakers work on legislation that would get public entities off the hook altogether. In January, a bill that would effectively exempt municipal governments and sewerage authorities from the suit advanced in the state Assembly. 



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