DEP more concerned about money than residents' safety
The NJDEP has refused to conduct a thorough investigation into the continued unpermitted dumping at 3 Silver Spruce Drive in defiance of Vernon Township and Sussex County Soil Conservation Stop Work Orders. A coalition consisting of Congressman Gottheimer, Senator Oroho, Assemblymen Wirth and Space, and other governmental officials have requested that the NJDEP conduct discrete core sampling with analysis for suspect hazardous solid waste and other contaminants at the site.
Recently, the coalition inspected “Waste Mountain.” NJDEP representatives, including Commissioner McCabe were present. McCabe in a previous letter to Congressman Gottheimer described the thousands of tons of soil, block, and brick as the stockpiling of soils. During the inspection a NJDEP expert described the materials as clean fill including chunks of asphalt that were clearly visible. When questioned about the asphalt it was explained that recent legislation defined asphalt as clean fill.
The recent law only permits the expanded use of recycled asphalt pavement, (RAP). It provides that RAP may be used, subject to certain limitations, either (1) unbound, as a surface material for parking lots, farm roads, or pathways, in quarry reclamation, or underneath guardrails, or (2) mixed with other materials as a base or subbase material.
The NJDEP Fill Material Guidance provides the following; Asphalt millings may be used as alternative fill when used as subbase aggregate under roads or parking lots as well as in embankments of major road systems.
The bitumen binder used in asphalt paving applications contains a relatively high concentration of organic compounds that has the potential to pose human health and environmental concerns in certain circumstances, especially when asphalt material is ground into very small particles that easily blow off of or wash from the surface.
Alarmingly, a NJDOT Environmental Impacts of RAP Final Report May 2017 found RAP in landfills can cause acidic leaching in landfills (where organic materials decompose creating an acidic environment) can cause elution of lead at a level higher than Maximum Contaminant Levels.
This could explain the high levels of lead found in water in close proximity to the landfill. Previous independent analysis found lead levels 15 times higher than the limit allowed by NJ regulations. NJDEP responded by criticizing the manner on how samples were collected and analyzed. So I requested that they take samples and test for lead.
Commissioner McCabe stated several times that this is a local matter and that probable cause is needed for the NJDEP to test the site. She is mistaken. Probable cause is not required to analyze water samples that are in plain view and consent is freely given by the property owner.
Water flows from the base of the slope side of the estimated 75 foot high pile. The source of the water borders the property line of another resident who has freely given consent for the “seizure” of water samples.
The DEP is more concerned about money than the safety of residents. Regarding core samples, McCabe said, “Doing so would be a very large, very expensive undertaking that would require collecting enough samples so as to be representative of the overall contents in the dirt pile.”
McCabe added the DEP would do so only if it was "appropriate." (NJ Herald)
The landfill exists in an environmentally sensitive area defined as the Highlands and is the source of drinking water for 5.4 million people. The landfill is also in close proximity to federal and state wildlife preserves.
In July 1987, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) created the Environmental Claims Administration (ECA), part of the Bureau of Contract and Fund Management. The ECA is responsible for administering the New Jersey Spill Compensation Fund Claims Program, created by the New Jersey Spill Compensation and Control Act.
Immediate action must be taken before contamination spreads to private wells, wetlands and the adjacent wildlife preserves. Spill funds should be utilized for reasonable measures to prevent or mitigate damage to public health and our natural resources.
It is imperative that the NJDEP conduct a full comprehensive study of this landfill as Vernon awaits to bring the owner/operator to trial for 25 alleged violations of our ordinances. Otherwise, Governor Murphy needs to appoint a commissioner who will lead the NJDEP “in pollution prevention efforts and innovative environmental management strategies.”
Mayor Harry J. Shortway