Legislators address Vernon dump

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Senator Steve Oroho, and Assemblymen Parker Space and Hal Wirths (all R-Sussex, Warren, Morris) released the following statement vowing to work with legislative colleagues, local leaders as well as Congressman Josh Gottheimer to pursue legislation aimed at protecting communities from tainted waste piles.

The issue has taken on particular prominence due to the growing concern of an unauthorized waste dump on private land in Vernon, a municipality within their legislative district.

To date, the State Department of Environmental Protection has not taken enforcement action against the delinquent property owner.

“The waste pile in Vernon presents a serious public safety issue for the whole community,” Oroho said. “While we don’t know the severity of the waste that is being dumped there, we do know that the property owner has been convicted on multiple counts of illegal dumping in New York. Of greatest concern is the potential contamination of groundwater as a result of run-off from the dumpsite. We are committed to working with local and legislative leaders to develop and pass legislation, or push for local enforcement mechanisms that can effectively combat this environmental crisis.”

On Feb. 14, the Senate Environment Committee reviewed a bill which would close loopholes in the State’s solid waste regulatory and oversight system. The legislators applauded Vernon Mayor Harry Shortway and a Vernon citizens group for testifying at the committee meeting in Trenton on the growing community concern.

The present legislation would expand background checks to include more people who work in the solid waste industry, such as sales persons and consultants. It would also ensure persons or businesses engaging in soil and fill recycling services are held to the same regulatory standards as to those working in the solid waste sector.

Senator Oroho and Assemblymen Space and Wirths noted that while the could possibly address the dump in Vernon, they are committed to exploring any and all solutions to this public safety and environmental protection issue — not only in District 24, but in communities statewide.

“We can honor everyone’s right to govern their own land, while still protecting public safety,” Space added. “This landfill has evolved from an eyesore to a multi-acre threat to our health, welfare and property values. We must get this neighborhood hazard under control immediately.”

“This waste dump continues to grow and we take the environmental concerns very seriously even if the DEP seems deaf to it,” Wirths said. “Water run-off tested by Vernon’s Environmental Commission was found to have elevated levels of lead. All New Jerseyans deserve clean and safe drinking water. We will attack this issue from all possible angles to ensure the health and safety of our constituents in Vernon, and around the state.”

“If the State DEP won’t step up and take action, we will craft legislation to create the appropriate enforcement mechanisms so communities are protected,” Oroho concluded.

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