Environmental Justice Advocates and Southeast Queens Waste Transfer Station Operators Reach Settlement in Clean Water Act and Nuisance Lawsuit

January 4, 2023

Climate and Energy Justice, Environmental Justice, News, Press Release, Raritan Baykeeper Inc. v. American Recycling Management LLC

Jamaica Residents and environmental advocates pose after the press conference with environmental protest signs.

The settlement provides for independent oversight of waste transfer stations’ efforts to contain odor, noise, dust, and manage stormwater

New York, NY, January 4, 2023 – Two residents of Southeast Queens and environmental organizations Riverkeeper and NY/NJ Baykeeper, represented by New York Lawyers for the Public Interest (NYLPI) and co-counsel Super Law Group, and local waste transfer stations operated by American Recycling Management LLC (American) and Regal Recycling Co., Inc. (Regal) reached a final settlement in a lawsuit intended to improve the quality of life for residents of Southeast Queens and help protect the waters of Jamaica Bay from potential contributions of stormwater to a municipal storm sewer. The lawsuit alleged that the waste transfer stations violated the Clean Water Act, by virtue of unpermitted stormwater discharges to a City storm sewer and caused a private nuisance to the individual plaintiffs. Both American and Regal deny these allegations. 

Residents of Southeast Queens have advocated for improved practices and reduced pollution from waste transfer facilities for decades. The settlement reached by all parties commits to structural and operative changes at the transfer stations to contain odor, noise, and dust, and manage stormwater more effectively. 

As part of the settlement, American has committed to pursuing planned renovations that will enclose facility operations, and improve odor control, noise abatement and dust controls. Prior to this action, American had been working on a comprehensive renovation to convert its facility to a rail-served and fully enclosed facility, which should decrease the amount of truck traffic in the neighborhood and reduce odor, noise, and dust. The proposed American rail facility will have high-speed doors, effective air ventilation and odor control misting. American plans to include a community classroom, green landscaping, and a community solar project in the facility renovation. With this project, American aims to increase its recycling capabilities to reduce landfill-bound waste. American is committed to working with the community to make this state-of-the-art rail project a reality.

Regal has similarly committed to facility-wide changes such as an upgraded ventilation system, a new misting system for dust control, an additional enclosure in their construction and demolition debris building, as well as improved door operations to limit exposure to the outside. 

Since the lawsuit’s filing, both American and Regal have filed for coverage under Clean Water Act general permits for stormwater discharges and are taking all measures towards continued compliance with the Clean Water Act. The settlement will be reviewed by the Department of Justice before it is filed for approval by the federal court.

“If American and Regal do what they say they are going to do, the whole neighborhood will benefit from cleaner air and less dust.  It would be a joy to be able to go outside and be in a fresh and clean environment. I am looking forward to the change if it really happens.” said individual Plaintiff, Southeast Queens resident, and member of Riverkeeper and NY/NJ Baykeeper, Caroll Forbes. 

Sonya Chung, Environmental Justice Staff Attorney at New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, said, “This settlement will reduce the impacts of the waste transfer stations on the surrounding community and Jamaica Bay. Through this lawsuit, residents of Southeast Queens advocated for their now constitutionally protected right to clean water, clean air, and a healthful environment. We are hopeful that the new practices and measures outlined in the settlement will be a step in that direction.” 

“This settlement is the result of years of dedicated advocacy by Jamaica residents and our attorneys at NYLPI and Super Law Group to address environmental impacts in the community. Under the agreement, the waste transfer stations will comply with environmental laws and take necessary steps to mitigate air and water pollution,” said Riverkeeper Senior Attorney Mike Dulong. “In addition to the community health benefits of reducing odors, dust, and other pollutants that emanate from the waste transfer stations, the settlement will also help protect water quality in Jamaica Bay, which is used by thousands of recreators and hundreds of animal species.”

Dominic Susino, Chief Financial Officer of American, said, “American has worked hard to meet the many overlapping legal requirements applicable to its critical waste management function and we are proud of our environmental record.  We also acknowledge that the nearby residents live proximate to a number of industrial and transportation uses that impact their quality of life. We are entering into this settlement so that we can put our resources toward our planned improvements and community relationships rather than the costs of litigation.”

The plaintiffs view the settlement as a long-awaited chance to improve quality of life in Southeast Queens. The defendants hope to foster improved rapport with their neighbors. All parties will be actively involved in monitoring the terms of the settlement, including meeting with one another to collaboratively resolve any issues that arise. 

The case is Raritan Baykeeper Inc. v. American Recycling Management LLC, Case No. 21-5211. Read the complaint and settlements: Regal, American.

About Riverkeeper

Riverkeeper protects and restores the Hudson River from source to sea and safeguards drinking water supplies through advocacy rooted in community partnerships, science, and law. Visit us at Riverkeeper.org.

About NY/NJ Baykeeper

NY/NJ Baykeeper is a 501(c)3non-profit conservation organization that for 30 years has fought for clean water and healthy communities around the densely populated NY/NJ Harbor Region. We do so through strong advocacy, long-standing community partnerships, and suing polluters. Baykeeper is a regional leader in oyster and natural shoreline restoration, urban watershed preservation, and ensuring public access to our urban waterways around NY/NJ Harbor. Visit us at www.nynjbaykeeper.org

About New York Lawyers for the Public Interest (NYLPI)

Founded in 1976 by leaders of the bar, New York Lawyers for the Public Interest is a community-driven civil rights organization that pursues justice for all New Yorkers. NYLPI works toward a New York where all people can thrive in their communities, with quality healthcare and housing, safe jobs, good schools, and healthy neighborhoods. In NYLPI’s vision, all New Yorkers live with dignity and independence, with the resources they need to succeed. NYLPI’s community-driven approach powers its commitments to civil rights and to disability, health, immigrant, and environmental justice. NYLPI seeks lasting change through litigation, community organizing, policy advocacy, pro bono service, and education.

About Super Law Group 

Super Law Group is a law firm dedicated to environmental protection. Our lawyers represent public interest organizations, community groups and individuals in their efforts to preserve water quality and other natural resources.  We are well known for our Clean Water Act enforcement cases and expertise in the regulation of power plants.  Super Law Group takes on formidable adversaries, including large corporations and government agencies, and has delivered significant victories for the environmental movement.  Learn more at https://www.superlawgroup.com/

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