Town's Industrial Past Driving Down Today's Property Values? Homeowners Living In Proximity To Former Smelting Plant File Class Action Against Owner, Alleging That 80 Years Of Copper Extraction Has Contaminated Their Homes With Unsafe Levels Of Lead, Arsenic
- It's been five years since the owners of the U.S. Metals Refining Company agreed to test the dirt around its former smelting site along Arthur Kill and clean up any potential contamination.
Now, alarmed by the findings recently mailed out, borough homeowners have banded together to file a suit against the company. The class action suit alleges that 80 years of extracting copper has polluted nearby properties, exposing residents to unsafe levels of lead and arsenic.
"This kind of contamination can be crushing to property values," said Steve German, an attorney for residents. "People have invested in their homes. This is where their lives are. This lawsuit is about people who are fearful for their health in the future."
The lawsuit filed in Middlesex County Superior Court on Jan. 31 seeks damages for the Carteret residents whose property's value may have decreased around the former U.S. Metals Refining Company site at 300 Middlesex Ave.
The suit also seeks to force the company to cover the costs of specialized medical monitoring for the residents, which could total to about 100 people.
German said that although no one in the area has shown any signs of illness, it was necessary for the residents to be continually monitored beyond standard physicals for any possible sicknesses due to toxic and hazardous materials from the refinery.
The current owner of the site, Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold, said it has not been served with the civil suit.
The borough welcomes the lawsuit from its residents, according to Carteret Mayor Daniel J. Reiman, who said the civil suit covers issues the municipality couldn't address in its lawsuit.
"We've gone after any of these chemical operations that have done business in Carteret and have left without cleaning up," Reiman said.
See, generally, Carteret's cleanup crusade: Borough battles to banish its industrial past (Though some Carteret sites have been remediated, most just remained "mothballed," the mayor says). Environmental Protection Agency EPA smelter foundry