The good news is that Jersey City has settled a lawsuit with the company which will require Reliable to end the production and sales of mulch. Residents in the Lafayette neighborhood claim that the company’s mulch-making operations have for years emitted a foul chemical stench into the air which has made it impossible for them to sit outdoors or open the windows of their homes.
The bad news is Reliable’s mulch production won’t end for another 18 months.
The settlement stems from a December 2010 civil lawsuit the city filed against Reliable Recycling in Hudson County Superior Court, arguing the company was a “nuisance” to the community. At that time, the city’s objective was to force Reliable to cut the size of its open-air mulch piles, which were 30 feet tall.
Members of the Lafayette Neighborhood Action Committee and other local residents living to the west of Reliable Recycling have complained about foul odors connected to the company’s production of mulch for at least the past eight years. Reliable was on several occasions cited and fined by the DEP for air pollution and other violations.
Under a settlement agreement announced by the administration of Mayor Jerramiah T. Healy, Reliable will immediately reduce the amount of mulch it produces, stores, and sells at its facility. The company will also fund monthly inspections of its plant by a city-approved, independent expert, who will monitor Reliable Recycling’s compliance with the settlement, and report any noxious odors to the DEP.
The plant is to be closed permanently in a year and a half.
“We had to act to protect our residents’ right to clean air,” Healy said in a prepared press statement. “We can’t thank the Ward F residents who got involved here enough. They stood up for their rights, brought their concerns to City Hall, and trusted and worked with us to achieve this important settlement.”
Not all residents are applauding the settlement, however.
“Eighteen months is way too long to wait,” said Garfield Avenue resident and activist RJ Harper, who has often been critical of the administration’s environmental policies in Ward F. “I called and complained for more than six months about Reliable in 2011 and was regularly visited by city health inspectors about the various Reliable pollution and smells. Mayor Healy can’t really take any credit for with this settlement. It was the local residents that pushed the city to finally do something about the on-going problem. Now, according to the settlement, we still have to deal with it for more a year and a half.”
“This settlement is about as good as we could have gotten in court and eliminates any litigation risk that existed,” Jersey City Corporation Counsel Bill Matsikoudis said in a prepared statement. – E. Assata Wright