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Jail time for Dirty Dirt – who’s next?

How many communities have to be poisoned and criminal convictions have to occur before common sense prevails?

In a little noticed but what could be a major story, on Friday the Trenton Times reported that:
“A contractor who dumped more than 400 loads of contaminated soil from Trenton at a farm in Moorestown and tried to conceal the disposal with false documents was sentenced yesterday to three years in prison.”
Man gets jail time for dumping tainted soil
Friday, July 25, 2008
A key fact buried in the story is that neither DEP nor State DOT detected the crime:
A tip made to the Burlington County Health Department prompted the investigation.
We have written about significant problems due to lax State oversight of the illegal disposal of toxic contaminated soils, most recently in a Bergen Record Op-Ed:
Playing with dirty dirt.

Contractors imported thousands of cubic yards of toxic sludge, contaminated soil and highly questionable “recyclable materials” that were used as clean fill or landfill-capping material. This made existing toxic problems at the site far worse. Press reports disclosed that DEP lacked even a basic ability to monitor contaminated materials imported to the site.

A similar lack of DEP oversight at the cleanup of the Ford plant in Edison resulted in PCB-contaminated soils and demolition debris being used as clean fill at 19 housing projects in central New Jersey.

These same practices not only continue across our state; they are encouraged and subsidized by DEP.
We are spending millions of dollars to clean up toxic soils, only to allow scam operators to “launder” and dump them in someone else’s backyard. This is insane. These materials require strict management to ensure they are safely handled.”

Recapping a fiasco

Lax oversight of contaminated toxic soils has cost taxpayers millions in the Encap fiasco, where the Star Ledger reported that funds from a DEP $212 million loan were used to purchase contaminated soils that may have been part of a mafia kickback scheme. See:
Mob taint suspected in EnCap project

Martin Luther King, Jr. School site in Trenton (this is old school, not new construction that was demolished).

Importation of toxic soils forced demolition of the partially built Martin Luther King, Jr. elementary school in Trenton, at a $27 million loss to taxpayers.
Similarly, PCB contaminated soil from a DEP “supervised” cleanup at the Ford plant in Edison was used as “clean fill” at 19 residential construction sites in central NJ. The PCB tainted soil had to be excavated and properly disposed at a cost of millions. This fiasco triggered legislative oversight hearings, where we warned DEP and legislators of the need to “impose cradle-to-grave management requirements for contaminated soils and demolition waste“. (See:
LEGISLATURE TO PROBE TOXIC COLLAPSE IN NEW JERSEY — Series of Cleanup Fiascoes Have Communities Feeling Betrayed and Vulnerable

Hackensack River operation

Yet despite the loss of millions of taxpayer dollars, significant risks to health and the environment, and a widespread ongoing pattern of fraud and abuse that is enabled by lax DEP regulatory oversight, DEP and Legislature have done NOTHING to tighten oversight, monitoring or enforcement to fix the problems that have been exposed.
Worse, the Corzine Administration, backed by democratic legislators, is seeking to privatize toxic site cleanup, which would further weaken already lax DEP oversight and lead to even more serious scandals. See:
NEW JERSEY MODEL FOR PRIVATIZED TOXIC CLEAN-UPS FAILS AUDITS — Serious Violations Found in More than Two-Thirds of Audited Massachusetts Sites
How many communities have to be poisoned and criminal convictions have to occur before common sense prevails?

  1. nohesitation
    July 28th, 2008 at 18:28 | #1

    Real problems – hard to solve. Require research and thought to report. Cost people some money to fix.
    No wonder they get no attention in media or at this site – folks too busy with meaningless drivel.

  2. unprovincial
    July 28th, 2008 at 23:41 | #2

    “Soil Brokers” have been making money with this “laundering” all over the country and the answer is to nail them to the wall when caught. The problem is that they still haven’t caught the eye of law enforcement. FBI agents don’t take soil samples. Remember, Chris Christie said the mob was no longer a problem in NJ?! Well, they don’t have goombas shaking down people as much anymore. They do things like make your problems (contaminated soil) disappear. And a lot of their “friends” are in the NJ legislature!

  3. nohesitation
    July 29th, 2008 at 08:53 | #3

    unprovincial – I agree with strong enforcement, but the issue can not be managed via exclusive reliance on enforcement.
    Before the “soil brokers” (and transfer stations and “recycling centers”) came areound, there used to be all sorts of midnight and outback dumpers of chemical waste.
    We solved that se of problems with a comprehensive cradle to grave management scheme (RCRA), backed by monitoring, inspections and enforcement.
    WE need something similar for the “ID 27″ waste stream in NJ.
    It can be done – I worked on developing DEP regulations in late 1980’s.

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