With Kearny still battling the N.J. Sports & Exposition Authority in court over its effort to close the Keegan landfill and develop the land, the town is now facing trash talk of another kind.
It’s taken the form of a legal complaint brought against Kearny by John P. Keegan, from whom the landfill has taken its name.
Curiously, the suit by the Rumson resident was filed by McCarter & English, the same Newark law firm that is representing the NJSEA in its bid to seize the 125-acre site by eminent domain.
Kearny is asking the state Appeals Court to set aside the NJSEA’s action.
Meanwhile, Keegan’s complaint – filed in Hudson County Superior Court on Aug. 7 by attorney Keith E. Lynott – seeks compensation from Kearny under the N.J. Spill Compensation & Control Act for costs associated with “closure and cleanup” of the old municipal and industrial landfill that ended up subsuming, by condemnation, a 3-acre solid waste parcel abutting the landfill originally owned by Keegan’s father, William, and acquired by John Keegan in 1976.
The old Keegan Landfill, as it came to be known, was operated by Kearny from 1950 to 1968 when it was leased by the town, through 1972, to the Municipal Sanitary Landfill Authority of which the elder Keegan’s company was a member.
After the former N.J. Meadowlands Commission took control, it designed a remediation plan for the property, including the adjacent Keegan parcel, resulting in construction of a slurry wall and drain to capture leachate that was leaking into a nearby freshwater marsh and installation of a system that pumped the leachate to a treatment plant.
In October 2007, the NJMC filed a condemnation action for Keegan’s parcel which, in January 2009, was judged to be valued at $919,500. But in April 2009, NJMC sued Keegan to recover a portion of the remediation costs which, in June 2011, a court set at $711,635 and awarded the sum to NJMC.
Keegan challenged the award but in April 2013, the state appeals court ruled that because Keegan’s property was part of the landfill, Keegan was responsible for cleanup costs. As part of a settlement reached in August 2013, Keegan agreed to pay the NJMC $800,000.
Now, on the belief that the town owned all or most of the Keegan Landfill “and permitted and arranged for disposal of solid waste, including waste containing hazardous substances, at this site,” and on the belief that “a large portion of the waste deposited at the landfill came from the town of Kearny itself” and that disposal “not only damaged Keegan’s property but caused him to become embroiled in the cleanup and closure of the Keegan Landfill as a whole, and to bear a substantial and unfair share of the costs to address environmental conditions at the Keegan Landfill and [his] property,” Keegan alleges that he is “entitled to [a] contribution from the town to recover [his] proportional share of the ‘cleanup and removal costs.’”
Attorney James Bruno, a member of the town’s consulting law firm Castano Quigley, is handling the case for Kearny.
Asked about the suit, Mayor Alberto Santos said: “We think that if the town owes John Keegan any amount for the diminished value of his property that was taken by NJSEA, then NJSEA should also participate.”
No trial date has been set.