Sierra on dirty dirt

27 Feb 2020 | 01:58

    This week the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced that companies conducting soil and fill recyclable material services have until April 20, 2020 to register with the DEP for an A-901 license if they do not already possess one. This is the first step that DEP has taken to comply with the law signed by Governor Murphy on Jan. 21, known as the Dirty Dirt Bill.

    “Today the DEP is taking the first step to start holding illegal dumpers accountable in New Jersey," said Sierra Club's Jeff Tittel. "Now that they have put dumpers on notice, DEP needs to go out and make sure that they comply. We have an ongoing problem with illegal dumping of contaminated materials in New Jersey. The industry has ties to the mob, and there are serious pollution and health impacts. These unscrupulous dirt brokers have been dumping contaminated soil all over the environment. This new law gave DEP the tools to do their job and protect New Jersey from illegal dumping,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “DEP must now make sure that these dirt brokers are applying for permits, and they need to track down those who don’t. Without enforcement and compliances, these changes won’t matter.”

    Illegal dumping of contaminated materials is a widespread problem in New Jersey. In Vernon, Joseph Wallace dumped toxic chemicals and materials for over 8 years. Samples taken from the dirt by DEP were found to contain polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and the pesticide chemical chlordane all at levels above the state’s standard for residential soil. In October, Wallace was sentenced to 90 days in Sussex County Jail and fined $58,500 after months of fighting in court.

    “This new law will help address illegal dumping in New Jersey. The illegal dumping in Vernon and elsewhere was a wakeup call to our legislature and the Murphy Administration that we need more enforcement power and inspections. In Vernon, the judge did the DEP’s job for them. DEP looked the other way and would not enforce the cleanup at this site for far too long. Polluters not only need to clean up their mess, but they need to pay too. Wallace has been illegally dumping materials in Vernon for over 8 years, and enough is enough,” said Tittel. “Illegal dumping has become a toxic menace to the community. High levels of PAHs, PCBs, and chlordane endanger public health. PCBs have been linked to cancer, as well as pregnancy complications and other health effects. Exposure to chordane can affect the human nervous system.”

    Illegal dumping in New Jersey has the potential to impact the environment but also cause public health problems, like in Kearny where New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority illegally dumped liquid sewage sludge.

    “We are glad to see the DEP stepping up to do their job to require permits for dirty dirt brokers, but it is only a first step. They have to make sure that they enforce these requirements by going out and finding brokers who aren’t complying. It is important that they hold brokers accountable instead of sitting back and waiting for them to apply for permits. New Jersey also needs tighter regulations and restrictions on how our waste is handled. We have a long history of contaminated materials coming into our state, in part because DEP chooses not to regulate these chemicals. DEP needs to set and enforce standards for toxic materials to prevent any more possible dumping."