Action demanded on Vernon waste pile

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  • U.S. Rep. Josh Gottheimer speaks about the landfill at Silver Spruce Drive.

  • Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) assesses the waste pile alongside Vernon Mayor Harry Shortway (left). In the background, rebar, cement, asphalt, and rusted piping can be seen mixed in among the waste.

U.S. Rep. Josh Gottheimer toured the waste pile on Vernon's Silver Spruce Drive on Monday, demanding action from the New Jersey Dept. of Environmental Protection.

Gottheimer surveyed the site and and documented his findings to send his findings to the DEP.

“Dumping potentially contaminated waste next to Vernon's lakes is a threat to community," Gottheimer said. "Specifically, we need discreet environmental testing, which I believe is necessary to assess any chemical compounds or hazmat-level contamination. I’ve written to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and the Governor’s office because a simple test could prove if the water is safe and the people of Vernon deserve an answer. I am very concerned for the safety and health of the residents of Vernon and won't stop fighting for their clean water.”

Gottheimer wrote DEP Commissioner Catherine McCabe on Fridayf asking for testing to be done on the waste pile after private tests revealed unsafe levels of lead in the water running off the pile. It also solicited a definition of "de minimus" solid waste in light of evidence of "brick and block" and possible "trace amounts of asphalt" in the pile.

Shortway said the township will continue the fight against the "un-permitted landfill in a residential zone".

Shortway said the DEP responded to a compalint regarding the township's storage yard by an attorney who represents the landfill's owner and operator, which he called an act of "retaliation".

"NJDEP provides words but no discreet core testing at the landfill," Shortway said in a statement. "Such action will answer residents' concerns regarding the hazardous solid waste."

Shortway said mature deciduos in the pile were dead or dying and water was seen running from the pile into the wetlands lcoated about 50 feet away. There also were large vertical ruts indicating erosion apparent along the slope of the pile leading toward the wetlands.

"This potentially environmental disaster is in the Highlands Region," Shortway said. "Where are the state environmentalists?

Shortway also said "stop work orders" are in effect at a sign at the intersection of Route 565 and Silver Spruce Drive to alert drivers is ignored. He also said police patrols in the area will increase.

"Our community’s wellbeing is this administration’s first concern," Shortway said. "This is also a state and county issue, and particularly a Highland’s issue. State legislation needs to be passed that criminalizes unlicensed and/or unpermitted dirt and solid waste operations."

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