NJ AG to Force Immediate Cleanup of Contamination from Illegal Waste Dump in Camden
TRENTON – Acting Attorney General Andrew J. Bruck and Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Shawn M. LaTourette today announced that the state is asking a court to demand immediate action to clean up an illegal landfill in the town of Camden.
The state’s action comes after recent DEP inspections found that a massive pile of solid waste, soil and contaminated debris at the site was spreading onto nearby properties, sidewalks and roads, threatening the safety and health of local residents and the environment.
The state first filed a complaint about contamination of the site, which includes several lots in the 600 block of Chestnut Street, in May 2021.
The trial was ad along with six others focused on holding polluters accountable for contamination in environmental justice communities that have historically been overloaded with pollution.
Based on the DEP’s additional inspections, the state today filed an amended verified complaint and request for a court order directing Weyhill Realty Holdings, the current owner of the property, to immediately clean up the solid waste, contaminated soil and debris migrating from the site, including onto neighboring residential property, and taking other measures to protect local residents and the environment.
“No community in New Jersey should be used as an illegal landfill, and no resident of this state should have their health and safety endangered by an illegal landfill near their home,” said Acting Attorney General Bruck.
“We cannot achieve racial justice without environmental justice, and I am proud that one of my first acts as Acting Attorney General is standing up for the people of Camden.”
“This growing pile of dirt and debris is intolerable,” said Commissioner LaTourette.
“From day one of the Murphy administration, we have been committed to ensuring that all New Jersey residents in all communities enjoy clean air, clean drinking water and a safe environment – and we We will wage these battles in every neighborhood and in every street, holding offenders accountable for their actions.
Those who violate our waste laws don’t just harm our environment, they harm the spirit of our communities, saying that our New Jersey compatriots somehow deserve less natural beauty and environmental protection. .
Like the original complaint filed in May, today’s amended verified complaint alleges that the former owners of the site, S. Yaffa & Sons, Inc. (“Yaffa & Sons”), imported and stored solid waste – y including contaminated soil, construction and demolition debris and used tires – many years without a permit before selling the property to Weyhill in July 2019.
The complaint further alleges that upon taking possession, Weyhill not only failed to dispose of illegal waste stored by Yaffa & Sons, but continued to authorize illegal dumping, receiving more construction and demolition debris on the property and mixing them with contaminated soil.
DEP has issued several notices of violation to site owners over the years.
In April of this year, the City of Camden issued an abandonment order for the site, and Weyhill subsequently ceased operations. However, the massive stockpile of solid waste and harmful and polluting conditions remain.
The state maintains that the enormous mound of solid waste made up of contaminated soil, rocks, and construction and demolition debris such as pieces of old brick and cement blocks is particularly threatening.
In November 2020, the DEP confirmed that each of the 10 soil samples taken from the property contained at least one hazardous substance at a concentration that exceeds New Jersey residential direct contact soil remediation standards – including standards for polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and metals, including chromium, which are known carcinogens.
A brief filed today in support of the state’s preliminary injunction request notes that the area surrounding the illegal landfill is “a bustling residential area, with heavy foot and car traffic.”
The brief states that DEP observed significant amounts of site dust and debris on the roads and sidewalks of Chestnut Street, as well as Sycamore and 7th Street, and notes that “whenever a car is driven on dirt and dust, it becomes airborne.
Additionally, contaminated runoff from the illegal waste pile threatens to enter storm water inlets at the corner of 7th and Chestnut streets which will eventually flow into the Delaware River.
With documents filed today, the state is asking the court to demand numerous actions from Weyhill to deal with these threats to local residents and the environment, including:
- Immediate disposal of solid waste, dust and debris that has migrated from the site to a neighboring residential property;
- Immediate repair and restoration of the fence between the Site and the residential property;
- Immediate disposal of solid waste, dust, sediment and debris that has accumulated in sidewalks, roads and other public rights of way near the site; and
- Immediate stabilization of the solid waste pile located on the site, due to fears that the pile could collapse and create a contaminated “landslide” in the yard of the neighboring residence in question, as well as on the streets, sidewalks and neighboring alleys.
In addition, today’s case asks the court to order that Weyhill promptly submit plans to DEP for the removal and disposal of all solid waste on the property, preventing air contamination. during the solid waste disposal process through dust management and prevention of contaminated storm water runoff. -off which could pollute the surrounding surface water.
Defendants in the lawsuit include both Weyhill and Yaffa & Sons, as well as William Yocco and Charles Yaffa.
The verified five-count complaint alleges violations of the New Jersey Solid Waste Management Act and the Weyhill Water Pollution Control Act; alleges violations of the Underground Storage of Hazardous Substances Act by Charles Yaffa and Weyhill; requests the execution of an administrative order of March 2019 against Yaffa & Sons and William Yocco for “storage of construction and demolition waste and tires” on the site; and calls for civil sanctions for their failure to comply with this administrative order.
Today’s action is part of the Murphy’s administration’s overall effort to address the damage disproportionately affecting the health and well-being of the state’s most vulnerable populations.
The attorney general’s office and DEP have now filed 39 environmental justice cases since 2018. The lawsuits have so far yielded nearly $ 20 million in judgments.
More importantly, many cases have resulted in court orders requiring responsible parties to perform clean-up activities to protect human health and the environment.
These ordinances also save taxpayers money by holding polluters and other responsible parties financially responsible.