Vernon dumper needs to pay

| 03 Aug 2020 | 04:54

To the Editor:

The Superior Court of New Jersey is considering a motion that would make New Jersey taxpayers responsible for paying for the cleanup of the illegal dump in Vernon. Joseph Wallace illegally dumped toxic chemicals and materials for over 8 years at the site. In October, Wallace was sentenced to 90 days in Sussex County Jail and fined $58,500 after months of fighting in court.

It is wrong that the state court would consider having taxpayers foot the bill for cleaning up this illegal dump in Vernon, or even part of the site. The owner, Joseph Wallace, illegally dumped hazardous chemicals for over 8 years. Under New Jersey law, the state can take over the site, clean it up, and bill the responsible parties. The judge has ordered Wallace to clean up the mess. The state needs to make sure that Wallace is held accountable, especially because the site has toxic materials like PAHs and PCBs that are carcinogenic and linked to pregnancy complications and other health effects. The people of Vernon have been living in a toxic nightmare for too long. The state needs to step in to clean up this mess, and make sure that the guilt party pays for it.

Samples taken from the dirt by DEP were found to contain polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and the pesticide chemical chlordane all at levels above the state’s standard for residential soil. PAHs are classified as a possible carcinogen. PCBs have been linked to cancer, as well as pregnancy complications and other health effects. Exposure to chlordane can affect the human nervous system.

This illegal dumping has become a menace to the community. Under the law, New Jersey can issue a Spill Act Directive that gives the DEP the authority to come on site and do whatever testing and cleanup they need to do. They then have the authority to bill the owners for the costs and triple damages. Under changes under the Roxbury Fenimore Landfill Law, the state also has broad latitude to come in and force a cleanup. New Jersey has a principal of Polluter Pay. The state of New Jersey should not let polluters off the hook from cleaning up their mess and what they did to the environment. The judge needs to sign off on a Spill Act Directive so that the state can clean up the site. The judge should also go after the owner and seize his assets and make him pay.

Jeff Tittel, Director

New Jersey Sierra Club