It’s a sight reminiscent of the bad old days in Secaucus and the Meadowlands. A rusting home appliance sits overturned among the brush. An abandoned toilet sits a few yards away. Unidentifiable household goods – lamps, perhaps? – are strewn among small pies of garbage.
New County Road Extension, located near Xchange at Secaucus Junction and Laurel Hill Park, dead-ends at this illegal trash heap. The area isn’t a polluter’s paradise – yet. Last week, local environmentalists and town officials vowed to clean up this site before the problem gets worse.
“It reminds me of some of the worst dumping that took place in the Meadowlands before we finally got this region cleaned up,” said Hackensack Riverkeeper Bill Sheehan last week.
Although the land in question is located in Secaucus, it’s owned by Hudson County, and it’s the county’s responsibility to keep it clean.
“Years ago, ‘Dump it in the Meadowlands’ was a buzz phrase, ” recalled Sheehan, who became aware of the dumping on New County Road Extension last weekend. “Anybody who lived within driving distance of the Meadowlands knew they could drive here and dump whatever they wanted to get rid of. We’ve been trying to live down that image. We’re trying to educate people, turn the place into an ecological preserve and an economic engine for the region. One if the things that holds it back is this kind of open dumping that’s going on down there.”
Cleaning it up
Town Administrator David Drumeler said last week that he and Mayor Dennis Elwell were unaware of the illegal dumping and have not received any complaints from residents, probably because the area is well beyond the Xchange housing complex.
“We will certainly have [the Department of Public Works] go over and take a look at it,” he said. “Even though that’s county property, I don’t mind helping them out and using some of our resources to clean the property.”
The New Jersey Meadowlands Commission (NJMC) has agreed to help Secaucus dispose of the trash collecting at the site. Sheehan and Town Councilman Michael Gonnelli, who is also a commissioner with the NJMC, have reached out to NJMC Executive Director Robert Ceberio, who said Secaucus could dispose of the solid waste at the NJMC’s dump site in Kearny.
“The NJMC is always willing and able to help communities fight illegal dumping,” Ceberio said in an e-mail. “For years we have provided free landfill space for municipalities to dispose of the trash they find dumped illegally, and we have offered this service to Secaucus for debris they find at this site.”
Illegal dumping and the environment
Left unchecked, the unauthorized dumping of solid waste could have far-reaching consequences for the environment. The illegal dump at New County Road Extension is taking place in an area adjacent to land the state recently purchased for a preserve.
Last summer, the NJMC purchased 40 acres of land from Allied Outdoor Advertising to be used for wetlands conservation. According to the NJMC, the land there has a significant amount of high marsh, which is rare in the Meadowlands district and can protect low marsh areas from flood damage. The NJMC plans to preserve this land, known as the Hawk property, as open space.
“Dumping solid waste like this is bad for the ecological integrity of the area,” said Sheehan. “This stuff floats around in the wetlands and winds up floating down the Hackensack River. It lands on the banks of the river. And this type of dumping is one of the reasons why the Hackensack Riverkeeper has to do 10 to 15 cleanups along the river each season.”
Sheehan estimates the illegal dumping likely began around the beginning of winter.
No one interviewed knew who was responsible for the dumping, although Sheehan speculated that some of the trash – motor oil containers, tires, coffee cups – likely came from truckers. The site borders a group of loading docks for trucks, and truck drivers are frequently in the area.
However, the household trash could come from anywhere, and anyone.
“People need to be given the strong message that this isn’t going to be tolerated anymore,” Sheehan stated.
If residents have appliances and other items that cannot be disposed of with normal household trash, please contact the DPW to arrange a special pick-up. The DPW can be reached at (201) 330-2080.
Reach E. Assata Wright at email@example.com.