The federal government has filed in court seeking an administrative warrant to enter the former Galaxie Chemical Corporation building on Piercy Street that contains hundreds of drums of chemicals and has been the site of multiple fires over the past months.
Federal officials need entry into the building at 6-34 Piercy Street to further investigate — including taking samples — the chemicals left behind in 500 drums inside the building, according to court documents.
The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection referred the case to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for investigation following a fire on May 12, 2018. State and Passaic County investigators inspected the site following the fire.
“The drums contain various hazardous substances like acid, including hydrochloric acid and acetic acid, and flammable material, including xylene and oxidizers. Some drums were labeled as containing 3,3’-dichlorobenzidine, a known hazardous substance and a probable human carcinogen. Xylene, 3,3’-dichlorobenzidine, hydrochloric acid and acetic acid are listed hazardous substances under 40 C.F.R. § 302.4. Most of the drums are in poor condition; improperly stored, leaking, and rusting,” read court documents filed on Jun. 21, 2018.
Investigators from the EPA observed conditions at the site that poses “a risk to human health and the environment,” says the filing. There is also a threat of another fire at the building that could cause the airborne release of hazardous substances from the drums and expose nearby residents and businesses. The building sits in a residential neighborhood.
The EPA was denied access by the building’s owners.
The large building that occupies 1.24 acres on Piercy Street is owned by Galaxie Chemical. The firm acquired the property in 1978. Building was last used in 2010, the year the firm filed for bankruptcy.
During the bankruptcy process, the building was abandoned and remained under the ownership of the defunct company. There is no evidence Glaxie Chemical was dissolved after bankruptcy, according to court documents.
Michael P. Santoro of Whippany serves as the president and chief executive officer for Galaxie Chemical, according to court filings. He filed for bankruptcy on Jul. 22, 2011, which listed he was the 100-percent shareholder of the company.
The EPA made “repeated attempts” to gain permission to enter the building.
Santoro, 89-year-old, reportedly has dementia and cannot give consent for EPA to enter the site. His daughter, Janine Marie Schwab, told officials she is the attorney-in-fact for her father. She declined to authorize the EPA access to the site.
The EPA needs at least 120 business days of “unrestricted entry” to mitigate the hazardous condition that threatens nearby residents and businesses. Part of it may include removing the containers of hazardous substances, pollutants, contaminants, and disposing off-site material removed from the building.
“It’s about time,” said councilman Michael Jackson. He represents the 1st Ward where the building is located. The mid-May fire was set by a trespasser, according to fire officials.
The building’s owners owe large sums in property taxes to the municipal government.
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