DEP moves on Vernon dump site

22 Feb 2019 | 04:07

    By Mike Zummo
    After months of applying pressure, local leaders including a grassroots citizens group finally got the state of New Jersey to move on what has been called “illegal dumping” in Vernon Township.
    New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, acting on behalf of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, filed an order in Superior Court that would halt all activities at the Vernon dump site, located at 3 Silver Spruce Drive - force the property owner to identify all the materials in the massive pile and allow the state to do its own testing of the dirt and debris.
    In an Order to Show Cause filed today in New Jersey Superior Court, the DEP alleges that property owner Joseph Wallace is operating an unlawful solid waste dump that sits on his property in Vernon Township.
    The state’s filing seeks to force Wallace to cease operating the alleged solid waste dump and immediately ban any further dumping at the site; to test for contaminants and dispose of any solid waste; and to give DEP access to the property for inspections and sampling.
    “For years now, the families of Vernon have feared for their health and safety, constantly exposed to the actions of a known, convicted polluter, Joe Wallace,” U.S. Rep. Josh Gottheimer said in a news release, “After months of requests to the state urging action, the DEP finally informed me earlier today that they had tested the areas surrounding the Waste Mountain in Vernon.”
    The town conducted its own independent test of the waters and found lead coming off the waste pile. According to Gottheimer, the DEP also found elevated levels of led, other chemicals and solid waste in the surrounding areas.
    “Let’s hope it isn’t an extreme level. It’s above a residential area and we don’t want this to spread, but it needs to stop,” Vernon Township Mayor Harry Shortway said. Hopefully the AG’s office is successful getting an injunction and hopefully allow us to stop those trucks and turn them back.”
    Gottheimer, Shortway, State. Sen. Steve Oroho and Assemblyman Hal Wirths met with the executive board of citizens group, People Against Illegal Dumping on Friday at the Mixing Bowl to discuss the next steps,
    “While we hope the courts and the State DEP will ultimately shut down this illegal operation for good and bring this sorry chapter to a conclusion for the benefit of the community, we pledge to work with Congressman Gottheimer, Mayor Shortway and other local leaders and citizen activists to make certain of this,” Oroho, Wirths and Assemblyman Parker Space said in a statement. “We also will continue in our pursuit of state legislation so Vernon or any other locality will not have to suffer from the lack of any clear authority to address such a situation going forward.”
    Shortway said the police can’t enforce regulatory laws regarding the alleged dump site as it’s not technically a crime, but he said with the state involved, the DEP can’t ignore the issue any longer.
    “This is a big battle,” Shortway said. “I know it happens down in the more commercial and urban areas. What are you going to do with what Expedia calls the “no. 1 area for nature in the state” and how are we allowing this?”