TRENTON — The state Department of Environmental Protection has launched a new environmental justice initiative.

The announcement was made on a cold, blustery Thursday morning at a large illegal dumping site in Trenton, where DEP workers and dozens of volunteers were busy removing tires and a wide assortment of debris along a stretch of the Assunpink Creek.

DEP Commissioner Catherine McCabe said her Department is holding listening sessions across the state to hear directly from local residents about pressing environmental concerns they have, because the DEP is committed to environmental justice in all parts of the state.

“Environmental justice requires us to do two things: listen to New Jersey’s overburdened communities, and act on their concerns," she said.

She said illegal dumping areas often are found on abandoned properties in urban areas where factories once stood and local residents are left to bear the brunt of exposure to toxic substances and trash.

“All of those burdens are unfairly imposed on the people that live in these communities. It’s all just not fair,” she said.

“What environmental justice means is making it a top priority to redress that unfairness, to stop it, to stop the illegal dumping.”

David Matthau, Townsquare Media NJ

She said when illegal dumping is stopped and pollution is cleaned up, neighborhoods can flourish.

McCabe said the DEP is already focusing on cleaning dumping grounds in 12 municipalities but other communities can also be included in this effort.

The DEP is working at illegal dump sites, looking for clues to find those responsible so they can be held accountable for their behavior, and they’re also working with police to ensure additional illegal dumping does not return.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com