Source: http://newjerseyhills.com, April 10, 2014
By: Brian Woods
The township is facing legal action as a fourth party defendant in a case that involves an underground oil tank that allegedly leaked and contaminated surrounding soil.
According to the case files, the plaintiff, John and Christina Price, as well as third party plaintiff, ANCO Environmental Services Inc. and A.J. Batista, are claiming that the township officials certified the abandonment of the oil tank and failed to notice the issue.
Batista’s case file states that “such active misfeasance on the part of Long Hill’s servant, agent, or employee, was intentional, knowing, purposeful or deceitful.”
Both Batista and the Prices are seeking reimbursement for damages incurred.
The plaintiffs, John and Christina Price, are also seeking reimbursements from ANCO Environmental Services INC., the defendant, A.J. Batista, the third party defendant, and Accurate Tank Testing, another fourth party defendant.
At a March 26, Long Hill Township Committee meeting, Township Attorney John Pidgeon received authorization from the committee to file a response to the lawsuit.
At the meeting, it was also stated that Township Administrator Neil Henry would discuss the case with the township risk manager.
“In my opinion they have a very weak legal case because under the joint claims act we are very well protected,” said Pidgeon at the meeting.
In January of 2002, Batista purchased the property located at 1235 Long Hill Road.
Batista’s lawsuit claims that he had the underground oil tank on the property tested before purchasing the property, in Dec. 2001.
He also purchased Home Environmental Protection Insurance with Zurich American Insurance Company, which allegedly covers up to $100,000 in cleanup costs, incase oil leaked from the tank.
In Nov 2004, Batista entered a contract to sell the property to the Prices. The insurance policy was passed over to the Prices.
In Dec 2004, the Prices arranged to have the oil tank inspected by Accurate Tank Testing.
According to Batista’s case files, Price’s initial pressure test indicated “a leak in the tank that would have permitted fuel oil to emanate into the soil and under the tank.”
Batista claims that upon hearing the possible problem of an oil tank leak, he contacted the Long Hill Township Construction Office, which directed Batista to deal with local environmental contractor ANCO Environmental Services Inc.
The case files state that Price and Batista agreed to hire ANCO to decommission the tank. They also agreed to split the costs.
Long Hill comes into the picture when, according to A.J. Batista’s case file claims, on or about January 21, 2005, the Long Hill Township construction official inspected the excavated underground tank to be decommissioned.
ANCO removed the top of the tank, allegedly drained the oil and cleaned the inside of the tank. The construction official issued the approval, the tank was allegedly filled with clean fill, covered with soil and the construction official issued a certificate of approval.
At the time, there was no indication provided from ANCO or the township inspection that the tank had ever leaked.
Sale of the property from Batista to Price was then completed in January 2005.
In 2010, the Prices agreed to sell the property to a third party buyer and also agreed to remove the decommissioned, underground oil tank. To do this they hired ANCO.
According to case files, during the removal process it was allegedly discovered that the previously decommissioned tank was filled with approximately 400 gallons of liquid waste and oily sand and upon removal of the tank contaminated soil was observed, which had to be remediated.
Including fourth party defendant Long Hill Township, the blame is being heavily passed around that none of the involving parties did their job properly to safely decommission the oil tank. Each defendant and plaintiff’s case fill passes the blame to another party.
ANCO alleges that Batista failed to notify or advise ANCO of the tank testing performed in December 2004, and the tank’s failure in that testing, before contracting with ANCO to abandon the tank in-place.
For this, ANCO is “demanding judgment from Batista for contribution and indemnification together with attorney fees, costs of suit, punitive damages and other remedies this Court deems just and proper.”
Batista alleges that ANCO certified that at the time of municipal inspection and prior to clean filling said tank, there was no indication that the tank had ever leaked, as the tank interior after cleaning was free of obvious holes and corrosion.
Batista’s suit also alleges that those representations were “false, deceitful, fraudulent, made under false pretense, constituted false promises or misrepresentation, were unconscionable business practices and/or were otherwise unlawful.”
This claim matches original plaintiffs John and Christina Price’s allegations against ANCO.