Residents want to sue Roche before it gives up New Jersey campus

Roche closed its Clifton, NJ, campus in 2013 and hopes to be free of the property this year, turning it over to a couple of colleges for a new private medical school. But some residents in the area want to slap the Swiss drugmaker with a lawsuit before it leaves town, concerned about whether the site has caused environmental issues over the years that will make it difficult for them to sell their homes.

As many as 60 of them are banding together and are expected to file a class-action lawsuit against Roche ($RHHBY) related to leaks in sewer lines under the campus that may have allowed contaminants into groundwater, reports.  

Roche spokesman Darien Wilson told that the company is aware of one lawsuit already pending that is tied to the remediation but that it does not comment on potential litigation. He did say that the company had supplied remediation reports to U.S. EPA and state Environmental Protection Department and "is in compliance with all state and federal regulatory guidelines and has already begun approved remediation on-site."

The publication says the leaks were found in an inspection by an engineering firm last spring and it showed a significant amount of underground chemical contaminants near the campus. Roche's consultant indicated those probably came from areas outside of the campus. The city is having to undertake a multimillion-dollar repair job on the sewers.

The drugmaker in January announced a deal with Hackensack University Medical Network and Seton Hall University that would locate a medical school at the vacated campus. The city hopes it will attract businesses to the 118-acre property.  

Cleanup at pharma sites is always a consideration when drugmakers vacate property. When Pfizer ($PFE) bought Wyeth in 2009, for example, it inherited a 435-acre federal Superfund site that was going to take years to clean up at an estimated $200 million cost.

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