- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 17, 2014

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - A New Jersey judge has approved a $190 million settlement with the last remaining defendant stemming from lawsuits filed over pollution in the Passaic River.

The settlement with Occidental Chemical Corporation was approved Tuesday and made public Wednesday.

It’s the third and final settlement with companies involved in litigation over river contamination. Altogether, the state recovered more than $355 million from the settlements.

New Jersey filed suit more than eight years ago against Occidental and several other companies associated with the former Diamond Shamrock site in Newark. Diamond Shamrock manufactured pesticides and herbicides from the 1940s through the 1960s, including the defoliant Agent Orange that was used during the Vietnam War.

The state says the river’s sediment is contaminated with toxins along a 17-mile stretch that’s one of the nation’s largest Superfund sites.

The settlement money goes beyond what the companies will have to pay the federal Environmental Protection Agency for the actual cleanup of river pollution. The EPA is finalizing plans for a $1.7 billion cleanup of contaminated sediment along the lower eight miles of the Passaic.

About $50 million of the settlement money from the Occidental Chemical Corp. will go toward projects designed to restore natural resources damaged by pollution in and around Newark Bay.

The Christie administration has earmarked the rest - $140 million - to go into the state’s general fund to help balance the budget. State environmental officials have said that will help pay the state back for years of costly litigation and for work it has done to start cleaning up the river.

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