SOMERSET COUNTY, NJ – DEP Commissioner Catherine R. McCabe last week announced that Wyeth Holdings LLC, the owner of the American Cyanamid Superfund site in Somerset County, has agreed to a $4.2 million settlement to compensate the public for natural resource damages through open-space preservation and natural-resource restoration projects that protect and enhance the Raritan River watershed.
The agreement, one of the largest voluntary settlements for natural resource damages (NRDs) to the state’s groundwater, compensates the public for resource injuries caused by the sprawling former industrial site that straddles Bridgewater and Bound Brook along the Raritan River. As part of the Murphy Administration’s commitment to restoring natural resources damaged by historic pollution, the Department of Environmental Protection has held the responsible parties accountable for both cleaning up contamination and compensating the public for the lost value of injured natural resources.
“This agreement demonstrates how the State and responsible parties can work together for the public good,” McCabe said. “I applaud Wyeth for working cooperatively with DEP’s Office of Natural Resource Restoration to amicably resolve their liability and to enhance natural resources in the Raritan River watershed. Cooperation like this ensures that our time is better spent restoring and improving outdoor spaces for the enjoyment of all New Jerseyans.”
“As we’ve made clear for years, the Murphy Administration is committed to holding polluters accountable, which is why we breathed new life into our Natural Resource Damage litigation efforts,” Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal said. “DEP’s announcement today demonstrates that companies are watching, and that a robust litigation program brings everyone to the table — even outside of those pending lawsuits. Actions like today’s are why I remain committed to continuing our robust efforts to promote environmental enforcement and environmental justice all across New Jersey.”
Specifically, the agreement provides $2.8 million for the purchase and conservation of 251 acres of open space in East Amwell, Hunterdon County, by the New Jersey Conservation Foundation. The land is within the same Water Supply Planning Area as the Superfund site and preserving it will protect an important groundwater aquifer recharge area. The agreement will provide another $1.47 million to the DEP’s Office of Natural Resource Restoration for future protection and enhancement efforts.
This is the second voluntary NRD agreement with Wyeth for the 435-acre American Cyanamid site. In 2017, Wyeth entered into a Consent Decree with the DEP, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for Natural Resource Damages for pollution of river sediments.
This earlier agreement resulted in the removal of the obsolete Weston Mill dam along the Millstone River between Franklin and Manville to improve water quality and fish passage. It also funded demolition of a flood-damaged building on newly acquired state park property adjacent to the dam, as well as related water quality and fish studies related to another dam in the area.
These natural resource restoration projects are in addition to work that has been underway for years to clean up contamination at the American Cyanamid site. The property had been the site of various chemical and pharmaceutical manufacturing operations for more than 90 years before operations ceased in 1999. The soil and groundwater were contaminated with volatile organic compounds, semi-volatile organic compounds and metals.
Wyeth Holdings LLC, a subsidiary of Pfizer Inc., acquired the site in 2009 and assumed responsibility for its cleanup. The company is continuing to work to clean up the site, including remediating contaminated groundwater through a highly advanced treatment process.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency added the site to its National Priorities List, or Superfund, in 1983. The EPA assumed lead cleanup oversight responsibility for the site in 2009. Groundwater treatment began in 2019. Soil remediation design work is underway.
Remediating polluted sites and restoring the natural resource injuries they cause is a key priority of the Murphy Administration. In 2018, Commissioner McCabe and Attorney General Grewal announced a series of lawsuits against polluters, including the first NRD lawsuits the state filed in a decade.
DEP’s Office of Natural Resource Restoration has settled NRD liability at approximately 7,500 sites, recovering nearly $800 million. These settlements have resulted in the protection of thousands of acres of aquifer recharge, wildlife habitat restoration, and the creation of public spaces where New Jersey residents can connect with restored natural resources.
To view the agreement and for additional information on the Office of Natural Resource Restoration, click here.