The state Department of Environmental protection is updating the Natural Resources Damages (NRD) proposal in its impending settlement for the Ciba-Geigy property, which has drawn a major rebuke from local officials, environmental advocates and some residents. The details of the potential updates to the proposal were not available, however Save Barnegat Bay is planning a public meeting next week to provide insight into what has been occurring behind the scenes over the last several months.
“Save Barnegat Bay has been quiet lately when it comes to updates on the DEP’s proposed settlement with BASF, the current owners of the Ciba-Geigy Superfund site, and there’s a reason for it,” the organization plainly stated via social media earlier this week.
The organization followed up with a lengthier statement, indicating that the state’s proposed settlement is insufficient compared to others across the nation.
“The final chapter of this superfund site is one of Natural Resource Damage assessments, essentially placing a dollar amount on the damage done to our environment, and the number offered isn’t close to enough,” SBB said.
Toms River officials encouraged as many residents as possible to attend the upcoming meeting.
“They’re going to bring experts in to discuss the damages and ongoing damages to done to our community by the Ciba-Geigy property,” said Toms River Township Council President Matthew Lotano. “It’s important we get a lot of people here to show support.”
The meeting will be held Thursday, Aug. 17 at 6:30 p.m. in the council chambers at the Toms River Township municipal complex.
The latest NRD proposal published by the DEP was issued in March. Since then, the proposal has garnered staunch public opposition, claims of political favor for BASF, and concerns that ongoing damage caused by the environmental disaster at the former dye-making facility may never be recognized or its victims compensated.
A settlement proposal, announced in December 2022, would place a conservation easement upon 1,000 acres of the approximately 1,250 acre site where Ciba-Geigy manufactured chemical dyes for decades, ultimately contaminating the surrounding area, polluting local waterways and creating a 552-acre toxic plume that was linked to elevated rates of cancer and other medical consequences for Toms River residents. Under the settlement, BASF would not be subject to any monetary penalties or punitive damages, and would retain about 250 acres that could be developed for profit. The details of the settlement enraged some local officials who said they were locked out of the settlement talks and, in some cases, surmised that political ties between the Murphy administration and the German business community may have led to the proposal.
It was ultimately revealed that BASF approached the state with an offer to settle the matter. Toms River has since passed a local ordinance that would ban conservation easements from being placed in certain industrial zones.
“We have been combing through thousands of files and consulting with the top experts on NRD settlements to help get our community the truth and justice it deserves,” SBB said in a statement. “The final chapter of this environmental tragedy hasn’t been written yet, and there is still time for you to help us change the outcome for the better.”
The statement from SBB went on to say: “The DEP has deemed that the loss of life and the impact of the countless others who have gotten sick due to the toxins from Ciba-Geigy are not up for discussion.