The Assembly Appropriations Committee advanced a bill, sponsored Assemblymen Hal Wirths and Parker Space, to expand New Jersey’s solid waste licensing law to include businesses engaged in soil and fill recycling in order to prevent illegal dumping of contaminated dirt.
The bill is based off recommendations stemming from a state investigation that found unscrupulous operators profited by covertly dumping contaminated soil and construction debris at inappropriate and unregulated sites.
“There are bad actors contaminating our environment with debris containing cancer-causing agents and they are able to do so by passing themselves off as recyclers who are not currently subject to the same oversight,” said Wirths (R-Sussex, Warren, Morris). “They are literally doing dirty work and we’ve got to clean things up.”
A property owner in Vernon, Joseph Wallace, created an illegal dump in his backyard with a 75-foot tall pile of toxic debris. In October, a superior court judge ordered that Wallace’s assets and bank accounts be frozen to pay for the cleanup. A municipal court judge handed down a sentence that included fines and jail time.
“We need to take back control from these so-called soil recyclers who are polluting our environment,” said Space (R-Sussex, Warren, Morris). “Anyone who has profited from illegal dumping has done so at the expense of the public’s health and it needs to stop.”
Under the bill, soil and fill recycling businesses must apply to the DEP for a registration and within 9 months, the registered business needs to apply for an A-901 license. It also expands the requirement for background checks to more employees involved in the solid waste industry, including consultants and brokers, as well as those in the soil and fill recycling business. The state treasurer will maintain a list of businesses disbarred from contracting with state agencies or had their soil and fill licenses and registrations revoked.
The bill unanimously passed the Senate in June (Senator Steve Oroho is a cosponsor) and is slated for a vote by the full Assembly on Monday.
It unanimously passed the Assembly Environment Committee on Dec. 9.