Toxins Found at Vernon Dump Site
The massive dirt pile in Vernon has been found to contain unsafe levels of several chemicals linked to cancer. Attorney General Gurbir Grewal in February ordered soil testing at the site while halting all activities at the facility. DEP for over a year had declined to do testing at the site despite having the authority to do so.
“The Vernon dirt pile turns out to have carcinogenic chemicals, to no one’s surprise. The community’s and our concerns about the Vernon dump site have unfortunately come true. We were trying to get DEP to act because of those concerns, and now we know there are dangerous chemicals in the dirt pile. This is what we all suspected and why we all pushed DEP to act. Unfortunately it took them too long and now these chemicals may have spread,” said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “Independent water tests have already shown lead levels 15 times higher than allowed on a neighboring property. DEP needs to do more testing and develop a cleanup plan.”
Samples taken from the dirt pile 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.
“DEP’s failure to act has put the community and the environment at risk. Now DEP has to do their job to go after these polluters and hold them accountable as well as making sure our communities are safe. This illegal dumping has become a toxic menace to the community. High levels of PAHs, PCBs and chlordane endanger the public health. We thank the AG for ordering the testing and hopefully this nightmare will end,” said Tittel.
Joseph Wallace, owner of the Vernon site, has pleaded guilty to six counts of illegal dumping in New York. DEP Commissioner Catherine McCabe said Wallace has been accepting Class B construction materials, including asphalt, brick, rebar and metal pipes at the Vernon site. The facility is not licensed for such use. This type of illegal dumping of contaminated materials is a widespread problem in New Jersey. A bill, S1683 (Smith), which has been released by the Senate Energy and Environment Committee, would help tighten regulations by expanding the requirement for background checks to a broader range of persons involved in the solid waste industry, such as sales persons, consultants, and brokers.
“The lessons from Vernon and other places show that we need tighter laws and tougher enforcement against illegal dumping. The Senate bill would help to tighten the regulations, however we need more from DEP to enforce the laws. New Jersey has a history of contaminated materials coming into our state, in part because DEP chooses not to regulate these chemicals. DEP needs to set and enforce standards for toxic materials to prevent any more possible dumping,” said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club.Letter from Attorney General