Stiffer penalties for illegal trash dumping in NJ lawmaker’s bill
Discarding of construction debris, old furniture, or just bags of garbage in random areas not designated as solid waste facilities is a major problem in New Jersey's urban centers, but it's an issue that extends to the suburbs too, according to Assemblyman Bill Moen.
That's why Moen, D-Camden, is now fielding interest from legislative colleagues around the Garden State to co-sponsor his bill that would at least double the penalties for those caught illegally dumping.
Moen said from last October through December, 17 people in Newark alone were issued summonses for improper trash disposal, so one can imagine how many offenders are never caught.
Not only does this kind of large-scale littering affect everyday quality of life in New Jersey, but it can impact environmental health, according to Moen, who referenced his time as a Little League coach in North Camden — just one section of a city in which the state has identified 58 separate illegal dumping grounds.
"Fifteen feet from first base, really, in foul territory, there would be consistently piles of trash that were dumped by illegal dumpers," he said, adding that making an example of dumpers might make an impression on kids. "When they look over one day and see that trash, and then perhaps the next day they have practice, they look over, and it's gone, that's to me a perfect personal example of how this works out for the betterment of the community."
Under the provisions of the bill, anyone found responsible for discarding more than 30 gallons, or 0.148 cubic yards, of household or industrial waste would be subject to a minimum $5,000 fine for a first offense, $10,000 for a second, and up to $20,000 for any subsequent violation.
And since taxpayers are more often than not on the hook for cleanup costs, with Moen estimating Camden's yearly payment at around $4 million, those found guilty of dumping would be liable to the owner of the property where they left their trash for three times the cost of damages, cleanup and other fees.
That broadens a stipulation that currently is curiously specific, Moen said, and would more easily enable property owners to apply to recoup those expenses.
"Right now, the dumpers are on the hook for these costs only if they leave waste on the property of a railroad company, so we're looking to expand that scope," he said.
Additionally, a mandatory community service penalty would be doubled from 90 to 180 hours, and could even, ironically, include trash pickup.
"I think one of the most valuable ways that the violators would learn their lesson is to spend some more time in the communities that they think are acceptable for them to be dumping their trash," Moen said.
On its way to potential full legislative approval, Moen said his measure has already been endorsed by the Camden County police chief, former city mayor Dana Redd, and as of Tuesday evening, a City Council ordinance.