Curious about what we are working on? Message Us

National Lead

January 6, 2018

Our case against National Lead regarding the heavy metals contamination in the Raritan River sediments adjacent to NL’s former site is almost nine years old.  It has dragged on for years because the case was dismissed by the trial court in 2010, but the court of appeals reversed that decision and sent it back to the trial court.  After several more years of litigation, the case was ready for a trial.  However, the trial court decided that it had to deal with a preliminary issue called “standing” that determines whether plaintiffs have a right to be in federal court.  In particular, the court thought there was a question as to whether plaintiffs have interests in the Raritan River sediments that may have been affected by NL’s legacy of contamination.  In May 2017, instead of a trial, the court held a week-long hearing on standing.  After the hearing, we briefed the issues for the court in our Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law (which was filed on September 29, 2017).  We are still waiting for the court’s decision on standing.  If the court determines that we have standing, the case will proceed to a trial.  If the court determines that we lack standing, we will likely appeal.

Background:

In 2009, NY/NJ Baykeeper and Edison Wetlands Association sued National Lead Industries and numerous co-defendants under the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act and the Clean Water Act for discharging hazardous waste and contaminants to the Raritan River in Sayreville. National Lead operated a pigment factory on a site on the Raritan and its misoperation severely contaminated the River and its sediments with various heavy metals including arsenic, lead, nickel, copper and zinc.

In 2010, the District of New Jersey dismissed our case, saying that federal courts should abstain from deciding the issue because it was too complex and because NJDEP was already working on a regional plan. However, in fall 2011, the Third Circuit reversed that decision, deciding that abstemption was inappropriate in these circumstances, that there was no regional plan and that the federal courts are competent to decide cases such as these. Because of our victory in the Circuit Court, the case was remanded to the District Court of New Jersey and is now proceeding.