Ciba-Geigy’s chemical plant nearly destroyed the ecosystem in Toms River, now it’s new owner BASF has sued the township for a property tax refund and won!
TOMS RIVER-In 2008, the Ciba-Geigy superfund site was acquired by German chemical company BASF for $3.26 billion dollars. While BASF was interested in profiting from the patents owned by Ciba-Geigy, but they also bought the liability of the Toms River superfund site. Ciba Geigy was proven to be the source of a 20th-century cancer cluster in Toms River.
What we know so far…the facts
- BASF sued Toms River and won a $20,000,000 settlement.
- Township records show plans approved by Mayor Mo Hill to allow for the development of the superfund site.
- Toms River experience a late 20th-century cancer cluster believed to be the result of Ciba-Geigy’s pipeline.
- BASF officials intend to collect the money they feel is owed to them.
- Councilman Dan Rodrick blows the whistle on the township settlement.
BASF bought the good AND the bad when it came to Ciba Geigy
That liability includes a 1984 pipeline leak that poisoned the drinking water in Toms River. It includes the childhood cancer cluster that developed around the Ciba-Geigy plant and its pipeline and it also includes the high volume of worker deaths related to bladder, kidney and central nervous system cancers.
Now that multi-billion corporation, based out of Germany wants the resident of Toms River to pay for the devaluation of the land it owns here, which was only devalued because of the company’s decades-long practice of dumping harmful cancer-causing chemicals.
$20 million decision against Toms River
BASF has challenged the township in court and filed a tax appeal, which it won, putting the townspeople in a community devastated by toxic water for decades in the unlikely position to have to pay the corporation $20,000,000.
That $20 million refund the township is about to give BASF would have years of negative impact on taxes in the town. This year alone, taxes in the township are going up 7%. Township officials did say they intend to appeal the court’s ruling. If forced to pay the full $20,000,000, future tax increases can be up to two times higher in the coming years.
Township maintains radio silence when it comes to BASF, why?
Only one elected official would comment publicly on the township’s legal defeat against BASF.
“They polluted the property and now they’re saying it’s worthless and want a 20 million dollar refund on their taxes,” said Councilman Dan Rodrick, a Republican. “ Children died as a result of their pollution and wells in town are still turning up contaminated. BASF should be ashamed of themselves!”
Ciba-Geigy maintains innocence.
Ciba-Geigy has never admitted to being the cause of the cancer cluster, but in 2002,Union Carbide, Ciba Specialty Chemicals, and United Water Toms River, without acknowledging liability, agreed in January 2002 to a multi-million dollar settlement with 69 families whose children were diagnosed with cancer according to VeryWell Health.
“Other families declined the settlement to pursue a class-action suit,” the report said.
What is the town hiding?
Rodrick believes there is more behind the silence of Mayor Mo Hill and other township council officials after uncovering a plan by the township, approved by Mo Hill to allow portions of the Ciba Geigy property to be developed by developers connected to Hill and his political campaign.
During last year’s mayoral election, Rodrick sounded the alarm on a plan that called for the redevelopment of the BASF property. Hill contended no such plan existed, but an investigation by Shore News Network uncovered a project plan and and updated township master plan document, approved by Hill that verified Rodrick’s claim.
Since the election, Hill and township officials have backed off their aggressive plan, in which the township paid a consultant to prepare.
Rodrick: Why are we helping a company who is suing us?
“What’s most unethical and possibly illegal about this entire ordeal is that the township was holding talks with a developer and BASF while this tax appeal was going on, and I had screenshots of emails to prove it!” Rodrick said. “Why would Mayor Hill and the township help BASF make money by developing their property while they’re suing us for $20 Million in back taxes?”
Hill and Rodrick exchanged barbs on the subject in a town council meeting last year, which was recorded by the Asbury Park Press.
State claims Ciba-Geigy was responsible for cancer cases
According to a 2001 report by the State of New Jersey Department of Health, increased mortality from lung cancer was also observed among former maintenance workers at the Toms River Plant, and stomach and central nervous system cancers among azo dye production workers at the Toms River Plant. A recent update of this study, with additional years of follow-up of former workers, generally confirmed the earlier findings.
Water in nearby neighborhoods were contaminated with deadly chemicals, chloroform, Benzene, Trichloroethylene and Tetrachloroethylene, all of which are carcinogens. Cardinal Drive and Oak Ridge Parkway were hit hard, according to the report, confirming the presence of an excess of childhood cancers in the community.
BASF intends to collect their $20,000,000 and fight Toms River
“BASF believes that assessed tax values for the Toms River site should reflect market values. This has not been the case with past assessments and therefore we exercised our right to appeal taxation in excess of these values. BASF received favorable decisions from the appropriate courts,” said BASF executive Roberto Nelson. “Today, BASF continues to remediate the Ciba-Geigy Superfund site under the regulatory direction of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA ) and New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP). BASF is fully in compliance with its obligations to those agencies. Our goal remains to remediate the legacy issues in a way that is protective of people and the environment.”