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Time to Dish the Dirt – New Jersey Makes a Bid to Reduce Contaminated Fill in Local Communities
By Natalia P. Teekah on November 11, 2019

The unauthorized use of “dirty dirt” as fill in sites across New Jersey has long been an issue facing municipalities. In October 2019, DEP launched the "Guard Your Backyard" initiative specifically aimed at curbing the dumping of tainted fill in New Jersey communities.

Tainted fill consists of soils contaminated with garbage, sludge, byproducts, discarded chemicals, or any other material classified as solid waste under state law. This contaminated soil is often sold at lower prices, or even offered as free fill, where it is then deposited at residential, construction, and development sites across the state. This practice has allowed hundreds of tons of contaminated fill to make it into our communities, and in some cases, quite literally into our backyards.

As part of the "Guard Your Backyard" campaign, DEP has released a model ordinance in an effort to help municipalities regulate fill at the local level. If adopted, the ordinance would require property owners to file an application with the municipality in order to obtain a permit to deposit fill. The ordinance also imposes an analytical testing requirement on fill suppliers, the results of which are to be submitted along with the permit application. The model ordinance goes on to detail factors that a municipality could consider in determining whether to grant the permit, a procedure for appealing permit denials, and a provision for penalties. Adoption of the ordinance is voluntary, but provides a uniform framework to help communities deal with this pervasive issue, and DEP's model ordinance may be modified to suit a municipality's particular goals.

Should you have questions regarding the details of the "Guard Your Backyard" program, would like to tailor the model ordinance to suit the needs of your community, or require advice on how to properly deal with the disposal of “dirty dirt,” Parker McCay's Municipal and Environmental Departments are available to assist.

The content of this post is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinion. You should consult a lawyer concerning your specific situation and any specific legal question you may have.

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