New Jersey’s attorney general filed suit Thursday against ExxonMobil, claiming the company contaminated the ground, water, and wetlands at its Paulsboro, Gloucester County, property with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and needs to pay an unspecified amount for environmental damage from the industrial chemicals.
Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal filed the suit in Superior Court on behalf of the state Department of Environmental Protection and said industrial dumping on the 12-acre Lail site, which also is in East Greenwich, stretches to the 1950s. ExxonMobil is one of the world’s biggest energy companies.
“We’re going to bring the hammer down on polluters and hold them responsible for the damage they’ve caused in the Garden State,” said Grewal. “We have strong laws on the books to require companies to clean up their mess, and we’re going to keep using them. That includes revitalizing New Jersey’s long-standing efforts to take ExxonMobil to task for contamination across the state."
Said DEP Commissioner Catherine R. McCabe: “The state is a guardian of natural resources for the benefit of the public, and when our resources become polluted, we have a duty to seek restoration from those responsible.”
Sarah Nordin, a representative from ExxonMobil, said the company was “surprised” by the filing and said that it had been working under oversight with the DEP, as well as the Environmental Protection Agency, on cleanup and restoration. She said the company has spent more than $47 million on the process so far.
“ExxonMobil takes its environmental responsibilities seriously and complies with all environmental laws,” Nordin said in an email. She continued that the company “has conducted significant cleanup and restoration at the site, including excavation, removing sediments, and replanting native vegetation.”
Regardless, the state filed what’s known as a natural resource damages suit, the fifth such case it has filed since the beginning of 2018, seeking damages for destruction, harm, or loss of surface and groundwater, sediments, wetlands, and wildlife.
The suit alleges that Mobil Corp., the owner dating to the 1950s, used the Lail property to dispose of drums containing petroleum products and other hazardous substances. Contaminants were discharged into wetlands and waterways. The Lail property is in a tidal area of the Delaware Estuary and is connected to the Mantua Creek, a tributary of the Delaware River.
Exxon and Mobil merged in 1999.
State officials say recent inspections and testing show groundwater, soil, wetlands, and sediment are contaminated with PCBs, the manufacture of which has been banned since 1979 because they are linked with cancer.
Some parts of the site were cleaned in the late 2000s, but “extensive” PCB contamination remains, the suit contends. The state further says that an environmental specialist hired by ExxonMobil reported in 2017 that PCBs were detected in the tissue of mammals collected nearby. PCBs were found in all locations where samples were taken and detected in fish tissue.