TRENTON - The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection has launched a campaign to help municipalities and communities manage fill material - soils trucked in for developments under construction, landscape projects or for use on private residential properties, Commissioner Catherine R. McCabe announced Oct. 8.
According to a release, at the heart of the “Guard Your Backyard” campaign is a dedicated website with local guidance and a model ordinance that municipal leaders can download and modify to suit local needs.
Enacting ordinances can give local governments the authority to determine what kind of fill material may be brought into their communities.
The site at https://bit.ly/323baJa is live.
“The Guard Your Backyard campaign empowers our local partners and residents with guidance on the steps they can take to ensure the fill used in their communities is clean and safe,” McCabe stated. “Establishing local regulations is a first line of defense against municipal dumping and can be quite effective in preventing illegal activity.
"We are pleased that many of our local partners have already enacted their own ordinances to build upon DEP’s model ordinance to design the best regulatory solution for their municipality. No one knows the diverse communities of New Jersey better than their local leaders.”
The genesis for a dedicated website and model ordinance on fill material management is based in community protection.
While clean soil or “clean fill” is often trucked to residential sites across New Jersey, “clean fill” that is sold or offered free of charge may contain contaminants that should not be on residential property.
In addition to the model ordinance, the website provides a detailed, easy-to-follow list of what is and isn’t considered solid waste under state law, specific actions that can be taken to enforce soil regulations or report illegal dumping, and examples of municipal laws regulating soil.
“Guard Your Backyard provides a detailed list of directives on what the state, municipal officials, industry leaders, private residents, and local governments can and cannot do with regard to the dumping of soil,” said Paul Baldauf, interim assistant commissioner for Compliance and Enforcement.
“Our hope is that towns will embrace the model ordinance and make it their own to control what comes into their towns.”
Under the model ordinance, a property owner receiving soil must first obtain a permit and have the supplier complete some paperwork, such as describing the source of the fill being brought in. The model ordinance makes provisions for fines or other penalties for any violations of a community’s ordinance.
"I've been fighting back against illegal dumping and illegal dirt and waste piles throughout New Jersey's Fifth District for several years. For decades, New Jersey and its shores have been a notorious dumping ground for other states," stated U.S. Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-5th). "I'm glad the state of New Jersey is stepping up to help local authorities protect their communities from these serious environmental and public health threats."
Development of a model ordinance for regulating soil and fill is a key element of Senate Bill 1683, sponsored by Sen. Robert Smith (D-17th), and approved by the New Jersey Senate in June 2019. The legislation has become known as New Jersey’s “Dirty Dirt Bill.”
“I applaud the efforts of the DEP to regulate dirt brokers in New Jersey, to prevent situations like that which recently happened in Vernon Township,” Smith stated. “Communities really can guard and protect their own back yards.”
“Illegal dumping can result in much more than a simple neighborhood nuisance. It creates a public safety crisis that threatens our roads, drinking water, and environment,” stated Sen. Steven V. Oroho, a co-sponsor of S1683. “Take, for example, the illegal dump in Vernon that grew into a seven-story mountain of contaminated dirt. The Guard Your Backyard campaign, which employs smart and sensible guidelines, puts our local community leaders in control of dumping provisions. I commend the NJDEP’s endeavors to combat and prevent illegal dumping across New Jersey.”
“I applaud Commissioner McCabe and Gov. Murphy for taking important steps to combat illegal dumping across our state,” Assemblyman John F. McKeon stated. “The ‘Guard Your Backyard’ program will give municipalities another tool to ensure only clean soil is being brought into our communities. It will go a long way in protecting the health of our residents and protecting our environment from toxic contaminants.”
"Our communities need to be able to protect their residents, environment, and water sources from contaminants that may be leaking into the ground from dumping sites and dirt piles. And we must continue our efforts to stop unscrupulous activities by dirty dirt brokers whose criminal behavior comes at the expense of residents living in rural New Jersey," stated Vernon Mayor Harry Shortway. "I thank the New Jersey DEP for this work they're doing to support our local communities."
The model ordinance complements existing state laws about fill and is consistent with all Soil Conservation District requirements in New Jersey. It includes exemptions for landscaping work, the filling or fixing of a septic installation, virgin quarry material, or the moving of fill around the same property. In addition, the model ordinance specifically states that it does not apply to soil or fill imported for the purposes of remediation of a contaminated site, operation and/or closure of sanitary landfills, or dredge repository sites.
Guard Your Backyard is one part of the DEP’s strategy to reduce illegal dumping in multiple forms across the state. In addition to Guard Your Backyard’s message for municipal leaders, the DEP encourages New Jersey residents and others to report illegal dumping through its mobile app and “Don’t Waste Our Open Space” campaign at https://bit.ly/2npVIaS.