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Vineland Kosher Poultry Threatens To Sue City Over Water Issue

lawsuit.jpgVineland, NJ – A kosher chicken plant filed in August a notice of intent to sue the city under a claim that contaminated water emanating from the old city landfill is finding its way into the plant’s wells.

In the notice, Vineland Kosher Poultry is claiming $50 million in punitive damages because of the landfill’s alleged contamination. The landfill, which closed in 1989, is located across Mill Road from the plant.

Mayor Robert Romano said Thursday the city has been “in total compliance” with state mandates on the landfill. But, he added, city officials plan to address the situation by conducting a groundwater study at the landfill.

“Our contention is it’s not us because we’ve been in compliance with all state regulations as recently as the last few months,” Romano said.

Franklin Riesenburger, the attorney who filed the tort notice for Vineland Kosher Poultry, said he was not at liberty to comment on the matter. Plant employees also declined to comment.

The plant regularly monitors its water quality and has found benzene, a gasoline product, in excess of the maximum contaminant level in its wells in recent years, according to Larry Hajna, state Department of Environmental Protection spokesman.

City Solicitor Alfred Verderose spoke on the issue briefly with City Council at Tuesday’s pre-meeting discussion, telling the council the city is “under time pressure with the state to file a response on the notice.”

On Thursday, Verderose referred the matter to attorney Michael Benson of Buonadonna, Benson and Parenti. Benson could not be reached for comment.

Hajna said DEP investigators looked over the landfill and poultry plant Sept. 22. On Oct. 28, the department filed an administrative order with the city citing the following non-compliance issues.

Fluid from the landfill called leachate is impacting production wells at Vineland Kosher Poultry.

Every owner of the landfill is liable for proper operation and closure of the sanitary landfill.

The landfill must complete a full hydrogeologic investigation to develop a corrective action plan to address groundwater contamination at the landfill.

“It doesn’t propose a penalty at this point,” Hajna said of the order. “It’s ordering a ground water investigation.”

City Council gave its approval Tuesday for Pennoni Associates of Haddon Heights to perform a hydrogeologic, or groundwater, investigation for up to $6,000.

Brian Myers, the city’s public works director, was not available for comment Thursday, but said Oct. 23 the study is mainly to determine what direction the landfill’s groundwater is flowing.

The city only has old conflicting notations the groundwater flows southeast and southwest, he said.

Romano said Vineland officials already offered to run the lines to put city water at Vineland Kosher Poultry, which has independent wells.

“They wanted to have lifetime use of water at no cost,” he said.

Romano added the plant doesn’t even have proof the city landfill’s water is contaminating its water.

“If it is, then we’ll take care of it. If not, it’s their own problem,” he said.

(Source: The Daily Journal)

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