DEP gives few answers

Vernon. DEP Commissioner Catherine McCabe holds town hall meeting on Silver Spruce dumping case as residents speak about about the agency's handling of the situation over the past several years.


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  • PHOTOS BY MIKE ZUMMO Vernon Township Mayor Harry Shortway speaks at Monday's town hall meeting at Vernon Township High School.




  • State Geologist Jeffrey Hoffman speaks at Monday's town hall meeting at Vernon Township High School.




  • DEP Commissioner Catherine McCabe speaks at Monday's town hall meeting at Vernon Township High School.




  • New Jersey State DEP Director of Solid Waste Enforcement speaks at Monday's town hall meeting at Vernon Township High School.



“I’m happy that we’re moving forward. I am looking forward to working with you to keep moving forward. Some of your assumptions tonight are incorrect. I have neighbors sitting in the audience who have followed trucks from gas stations, uninterrupted video from gas stations open and closed to that pile. Don’t assume everything in the pile is clean.”
Patrick Curreri
Vernon Township Councilman


Answers were lacking on Monday night as New Jersey Dept. of Environmental Protection Commissioner Catherine McCabe came to Vernon Township High School to give a briefing on the status of the illegal dumping case on Silver Spruce Drive.

After a brief presentation from McCabe, Mike Hastry, the DEP’s director of solid waste enforcement and Jeffrey Hoffman, the state’s geologist, residents got their chance to sound off.

Hastry said that most of what Wallace had been dumping on his property was from a Costco property in Main. He also said half of the samples tested from the perimeter of the waste pile in march had hits for compounds, including PCBS and chlordane – a pesticide – were in low enough quantities that they posed limited risk to local wells.

Hastry also said he expected further testing to provide similar results to what was discovered in March.

Residents disagreed and loudly challenged Hastry on his “assumptions”

“I’m happy that we’re moving forward,” Vernon Township Councilman Patrick Curreri said. “I am looking forward to working with you to keep moving forward. Some of your assumptions tonight are incorrect. I have neighbors sitting in the audience who have followed trucks from gas stations, uninterrupted video from gas stations open and closed to that pile. Don’t assume everything in the pile is clean.”

Martin O’Donnell said the samples taken from the perimeter of the Wallace property are not indicative of the reality.

“You don’t know what’s in the middle of that,” he said.

He implored DEP officials to make a commitment to the people of Vernon Township and Sussex County and said the DEP is a reactive organization that needs to be proactive.

McCabe, who drew heavy criticism, the entire night for December comments in which she said “there’s nothing to see here” regarding the dirt pile, stressed patience and kept pointing to an upcoming May 30 court date.

She said she hopes the judge will grant them “relief” and order Wallace to do further testing on the older material in the pile.

The comment drew derision from the audience, who said they do not expect Wallace to comply with any order he will receive from the judge.

When asked who would have to follow through should Wallace refuse, McCabe pointed to herself to indicate DEP, but no one was able to produce a dollar amount or a timeframe to clean up the pile.

McCabe and Hastry continually said the problems on Wallace’s property were a regulatory issue and not a health issue.

Hoffman said the bedrock beneath Wallace’s property, which is on a hill, is so hard that the compounds found in the dirt pile were unlikely to venture beyond Wallace’s own well.

Hastry described the compounds as inert and are unlikely to travel far from the dirt pile. The only way he could possibly travel is in the form of dust.

Several residents, most notably Peg DiStasi.

“We’ve lived for four years with dust clouds in our yards as 30 to 40 trucks per day so you’re telling me there is a danger,” she said. “My grandchildren and my neighbors have been breathing that for 5 years.”

Hastry had said testing would cost about $40,000-$60,000.

Curreri said that isn’t too much to ask for testing “when our lives actually depend on it.”

Township Mayor Harry Shortway has proposed that and the legislature has taken up a bill making illegal dumping a third-degree crime, calling for incarceration of 3-5 years and a fine of up to $15,000 and vehicle impoundment.

The measure also suggests that any person convicted would receive a mandatory license suspension

The bill, co-sponsored by State Sen. Steven Oroho, was referred to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee on Feb. 14.






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