Trenton, Camden and Secaucus have committed to combat illegal dumping along with the state of New Jersey, though the NJDEP has contributed to lack of enforcement, says the New Jersey Sierra Club. Between 2010 and 2012, inspection and enforcement at the NJDEP dropped by between 30%-60% in various program areas. Inspection and enforcement actions may have dropped even further since that time, but the public is in the dark as the agency has failed to release information. The cities are partnering with New Jersey’s “Don’t Waste our Open Space” program, which has led to 34 arrests for illegally dumping in state parks and wildlife management areas this year. The program includes a mobile application for visitors to alert authorities to illegal dumping and debris. Illegal dumping includes the unlawful disposal of materials from construction debris to car parts and affects nearly all the state’s forests and management areas.
Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, released the following statement:
“DEP going after dumpers is important because when you put force into enforcement it acts as a deterrent. However, we have actually seen cut backs in enforcement with the Christie Administration. These people are getting caught now, even though many aren’t getting caught because of cut backs in inspections and gaps in enforcement. When you cut back on enforcement, you send a message to people that it is ok to dump on New Jersey. If there is more enforcement, it will actually encourage less environmental law violations and pollution. Dumping in our parks has actually gotten much worse under this Administration. Our parks and forests are our treasures that belong to all of us and we are allowing our treasures to be trashed.
We are glad that these cities and the DEP are using their program to protect our open spaces from dumping, however there was dumping in the first place because of cuts to park staff and enforcement agents. The budget for parks has been down over 40% since 2009 the number of staffing has been down around the same. We have the lowest number of park staff since the 1980s. There have been fewer state park police and officers that patrol the parks and woodland areas to control dumping. Since the cutbacks there have not been enough staff because of that we are seeing more illegal dumping.”
Funding has not only been cut for enforcement and staff, but for open space preservation. We may not have any open space to protect from illegal dumping since the Open Space Fund is currently broke. Bills have been introduced to the legislature to fund open space, but compromises have not been made. Governor Christie has also failed to come up with a plan for funding to protect New Jersey’s last remaining open spaces. Although the “Don’t Waste Our Open Space” campaign will help protect our parks, unless we come up with funding for staffing, enforcement, and open space preservation the campaign will be wasted. These parks belong to all of us and we have to work to protect them. They are our legacy not a dumping ground.”