By: Follow South Jersey Staff
CAMDEN, N.J. — Approximately 70,000 tons of unlawfully stockpiled material on several properties in Camden City’s Bergen Square neighborhood will be removed after a memorandum of understanding between the City of Camden, Camden Redevelopment Agency (CRA), Camden County, and NJDEP was executed recently.
“We can now move forward on providing the environmental justice this neighborhood deserves by starting the process of remediating this site that criminals decided to turn into a landfill in the middle of the Bergen Square neighborhood,” Commissioner Jeff Nash said in a press release from the county. “Ultimately, if I could, I would take the 70,000 tons of toxic material and dump it in the front yards of the principals of the company who created this mess. Today is just the beginning of this fight and while we work to fully remediate this site, we will continue to hunt down the criminals that polluted this parcel and hold them accountable.”
The environmental threat presents a significant health and safety risk to the residents due to potential exposure from hazardous substances migrating from the site through airborne dust and the erosion of the soil waste.
A court order directed Weyhill Realty Holdings, the current owner, to take immediate remedial measures to address the unhealthy environmental and unsafe conditions imposed on nearby residents. No action has been taken to date and the parties to the memorandum of understanding have therefore taken steps to protect the public.
The memorandum will allow the city, county, and the CRA to move forward with an aggressive remediation and clean-up plan. Camden City Mayor Victor Carstarphen will announce details and timing of the removal plan in the coming weeks.
“I am pleased to announce the execution of the MOU, as this is a huge step towards finally addressing this unacceptable condition,” Carstarphen said. “The illegally dumped material presents an ongoing threat to the health, safety and welfare of the community and it’s a blight on the entire City. The City has pursued action against the responsible party and will continue to do so but we can no longer let this public health monstrosity continue to sit while the matter works its way through court. I commend the Camden County Board of Commissioners, the Camden Redevelopment Agency, Commissioner Shawn LaTourette and NJDEP for being true outstanding partners. This situation has been existing for far too long and my administration is taking bold action. We will achieve a positive outcome for the City of Camden and our residents.”
DEP Commissioner Shawn LaTourette stated that the illegal stockpile has had a negative impact this on the community.
“This mountain of dirt and debris has directly impacted the quality of life of residents in this neighborhood for too long and has to be removed,” LaTourette said. “The Murphy Administration stands in support of this important work that will finally rid the community of this eyesore and health hazard, righting an environmental injustice inflicted upon one of our overburdened communities.”
The Camden County Health Officer, Paschal Nwako, deployed departmental resources to the site to provide an overview of the problem last year.
“The elimination of this dirt pile will provide relief to the residents in the surrounding area and give peace of mind to the neighbors along Chestnut Street,” Nwako said. “This dirt pile should never have existed, and the removal of this material will be an enhancement and improvement to the city at large. It will also send a clear message that the mayor and the commissioners will not accept this type of criminal behavior anywhere in Camden County.”
As outlined in the MOU, if the owner of the privately-owned site fails to address the stockpiled material, the CRA, acting as the Camden City’s agent, will access the location in order to characterize and eventually properly dispose of the stockpiled material. Additionally, the city has authorized a foreclosure proceeding against the responsible party sites and the city anticipates taking ownership of all the impacted properties at the conclusion of the foreclosure proceeding.
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