Home > Uncategorized > DEP Illegal Disposal Enforcement “Crackdown”: Self Serving Hypocrisy

DEP Illegal Disposal Enforcement “Crackdown”: Self Serving Hypocrisy

 DEP Cares More About Press PR Than Park Conditions

garbage illegally dumped along D&R Canal State Park path on Duck Island (8/26/14)

garbage illegally dumped along D&R Canal State Park path on Duck Island (8/26/14)

[Updates below]

You’d think DEP would at least clean up the mess BEFORE they issue the self serving press release about the mess.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Earlier today, the screaming headline of DEP’s press release immediately caught my eye: SIX MORE CHARGED IN DEP CRACKDOWN TO COMBAT ILLEGAL DUMPING ON STATE LANDS.

For the first time I can recall, DEP actually bragged that one of the alleged violators (or are they evil doers?) had already been deported to Guatemala and another was facing jail time for failure to appear in court to answer the DEP summons (this was for a minor littering violation, not illegal disposal).

Wow. Imagine that. Jail time and deportation for littering in NJ state parks. That Christie DEP must have an enforcement hard-on, right?

Wrong.

You mean the Christie Administration, who has surrendered the enforcement stick and has the worst enforcement record in the history of DEP – with enforcement fines, inspections, and violations down by as much as 90% – is actually enforcing environmental laws?

The DEP that just indefinitely extended the enforcement shut down order for the BL England coal power plant?

[No DEP fines or jail time for Exelon Oyster Creek nuke plant radioactive tritium groundwater plume or Dupont poisoning 450 homes with toxic vapors.]

The administration that took no enforcement action for a toxic spill that hospitalized scores of people and forced evacuation of a town?

The Administration that wants to rehabilitate the State’s unrepentant worst wetlands violator and ideological foe of environmental regulation and enforcement to sit on the Pinelands Commission?

The DEP that paid convicted felons to haul Sandy debris and issued DEP permits to a convicted felon to create the Fenimore landfill fiasco?

The DEP that itself illegally dumped waste on Bulls Island State Park – and then lied to the press and then even lied to the US Army Corps of Engineers about it – sees no hypocrisy in cracking down on illegal dumping on State Lands?

You mean the DEP with this kind of enforcement record is OK with people being deported and serving jail time for merely littering?

Wow – I gotta see that.

Since I live just 5-6 miles south of the Duck Island portion of the D&R Canal State Park where some of these these major crimes occurred, I immediately hopped on my bike, camera in tow, to visit the scene of the crime and check it out.

I quite reasonably figured if DEP were cracking down on illegal disposal in State Parks, perhaps they also might be interested in using that enforcement power to improve the conditions of the park for the people and wildlife that use it.

What I saw might surprise you. Put simply, I was wrong.

The segment of the D&R Canal Park from Trenton to Bordentown is neglected by DEP.

It runs parallel to I-295, adjacent to the Trenton-Hamilton marsh, past the PSEG Duck Island power plant, the City of Trenton’s sewage treatment plant, oil depots, landfills, and toxic waste sites. The canal path also provides an easement for a major pipeline to fuel the PSEG plant.

Portions of the canal are so sedimented and overgrown that the canal no longer flows. The water is stagnant and covered by bright green algae scum.

I saw dozens of tires and a boat dumped in the Canal. A tree was down, totally blocking the path.

dozens of tires illegally dumped in D&R Canal remain for years.

dozens of tires illegally dumped in D&R Canal remain for years. (8/26/14)

It is a mess.

These horrible conditions would never be tolerated in the Hunterdon and Somerset County portions of the D&R canal path.

So, since DEP apparently lacks the resources and or will to remedy these conditions, PSEG should adopt the D&R Canal segment that runs past their Duck Island power plant, from Trenton to the Bordentown marina.

That is a roughly 5 mile neglected portion of the D&R Canal Park. (additional photos in next post).

PSEG should do that as a good corporate neighbor, but especially in light of the huge subsidies and multi-million dollar sweetheart deals they have enjoyed from DEP park land easements (take a look at PSEG easements in just D&R Canal State Park).

PEER blew the whistle multiple times on financial audits of DEP that showed below market leases and easements across state lands for highly profitable industrial uses like oil and gas pipelines. (see this and this and this).

I wrote about this set of issues numerous times:

The legislature responded by passing a law mandating that DEP leases reflect full market value:

4. a. The Department of Environmental Protection shall conduct, within six months after the effective date of this act, a study of the facilities, services, resources, activities, and amenities provided, or which reasonably could be provided, at each State park or forest as defined in subsection e. of section 3 of P.L.1983, c.324 (C.13:1L-3).  As part of the study, the department shall:

(2)   conduct a re-appraisal of the rents and fees charged for all residences and other buildings and structures, and for utility easements and right-of-ways, located on State park or forest lands to ensure they reflect current fair market values and will continue to do so;

But DEP has ignored that law, still has not renegotiated existing leases, and their policy on new leases also fails to recoup full market value.

So, here’s what PSEG should agree to do for the segment of the Canal path that runs by their facility and provides an easement for a pipeline to their facility:

  • provide a new trail surface
  • dredge and cleanup the Canal, enabling it (and canoes and kayaks) to flow freely to the Delaware River and Hamilton marsh
  • restore damage to stream banks that are tributaries to Crosswicks Creek & Trenton Marsh
  • fund a routine maintenance program
  • fund or install interpretive signs and benches every 1/2 mile

We will be petitioning PSEG and DEP to implement this kind of restoration program – more to follow on that.

[Update – 8/30/14: Took a ride out D&R Canal path to check status –

A few months ago, I sent the D&R Canal Park Superintendent a note about the need for maintenance, and within a few days, a DEP parks crew responded. So, after this post, I honestly expected that at least the garbage would be gone and maybe the downed tree blocking the path removed.

Nope – all the mess still there. Trail users had managed to cut a path under the tree.

I’ll reach out again to the Park Superintendent.

I have many DEP readers, so guess Wolfenotes lacks the firepower these days – or maybe the DEP management, after I rubbed their noses in the Bulls Island mess, is spiteful and doesn’t want to give me another win – or else DEP is just shameless.

[Update #2 – 8/30/14 – Here’s an email I just fired off to D&R Canal Commission and Park Superintendent. I am sure it will get a response, because Marlen and Pat are fine professionals and public servants:

Dear Superintendent & Executive Director:

Hi Marlen & Pat:

I am writing to request a response to the following problems:

1) there is a fresh illegal garbage disposal site just south of the Lamberton Road trailhead. Can you send a crew out to clean that up?

2) a couple of hundred feet south of the garbage, a tree is down blocking the trail. Can you send a crew out to remove?

3) as you know, the stretch of the canal along Duck Island badly needs dredging. Is that possible that DEP could do that?

4) as you know, there are scores of illegally disposed tires and other garbage, including a boat in the Canal.

When can DEP send a crew out to remove all that?

5) Have leases and easements across the Park been renegotiated and updated to reflect current full market value as directed by 2008 legislation?

6) Would it be possible to get PSEG to partner voluntarily in maintaining and improving this stretch of the Canal?

I am particularly interested in getting this work done, given DEP enforcement crackdown on illegal disposal on state lands and state parks.

Hopefully, that initiative has freed up management attention and resources.

You can see some photos and analysis here (glad to provide other photos):

http://www.wolfenotes.com/2014/08/dep-illegal-disposal-enforcement-crackdown-self-serving-hypocrisy/

Appreciate your timely and favorable consideration and response.

Bill Wolfe, NJ PEER

609-397-4861
downed tree blocks D&R Canal, just south of Lamberton Street trailhead on Duck Island

downed tree blocks D&R Canal, just south of Lamberton Street trailhead on Duck Island (8/26/14)

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