By Mandy Coriston
Byram is looking to join surrounding municipalities who have recently passed new soil importation ordinances in light of last year’s investigation into a contaminated soil dumpsite in Vernon, which resulted in the NJDEP’s involvement, charges of illegal dumping, and new statewide legislation installing more stringent regulations about what constitutes ‘dirty dirt.’ After tabling the issue in the fall, Byram addressed it at the Tuesday, Feb. 18, council meeting.
The council, along with township engineer Cory Stoner, discussed the proposed ordinance with the public; Stoner serves as municipal engineer for several of Sussex County’s 24 towns and has assisted with the authoring of ordinances in those towns, including Wantage, Vernon, and Frankford. Byram is seeking to find a way to regulate the importation of soil so as to not allow what happened in Vernon, where a 75’ tall pile of contaminated soil has created an environmental nightmare for state and local officials. Even as late as last week, officials were determining how best to remove the waste dirt from the site and begin remediation. That soil has been tested to show contaminants like lead and a variety of toxic chemicals, including those found in creosote.
Byram’s proposed ordinance would set a permit and fee structure for residents wishing to bring in large quantities of soil or fill and would require determination of origin of fill, proof of soil testing, and allowance of the zoning officer to inspect any sites which are permitted for minor or major soil fills, a status which would be determined by the quantity being imported. The ordinance also proposes to allow exemptions for materials being delivered direct from a registered quarry, where state laws already dictate testing and permits.
Councilman Harvey Roseff expressed concern for the permit costs to local landscaping businesses, such as Sunnyside, who often have fill for sale, but Stoner explained those types of businesses often have other necessary permits to run their operations and are familiar with their fill and soil providers. Another concern raised about the ordinance was regarding the baseline quantity (25 cubic yards) which would not require permitting, with many in the room in agreement that such a small amount of soil does not go very far in remedying many common lawn and garden problems. Most felt that even leveling an average backyard would require much more soil than that and would push everyone wishing to do seemingly ‘small projects’ over the limit into needing the permits.
The council, along with Stoner and township manager Joe Sabatini, will be working over the coming weeks to tweak the language in the ordinance to find a balance between the needs of residents and the need to guard Byram against the introduction of potentially contaminated soil. Once complete, the ordinance will be added to an upcoming council meeting agenda for introduction. The public is invited and encouraged to attend all council meetings, the next of which will be held at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 3. The council will also be holding a joint meeting with the municipal building subcommittee at 7 p.m. on Monday, March 2. That meeting is also open to the public, and the potential of the proposed lease agreement for new municipal space at ShopRite Plaza will be discussed.