Part II: Top Soil Depot Redux

toxic waste sign Italiano: segnale per rifiuti...
toxic waste sign Italiano: segnale per rifiuti speciali (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
By Christopher Lotito

Wayne's Toxic Dump Site to Continue Operations

At center, Wayne's Top Soil Depot just downstream of the river's
hook, depicted in Cropsey's famed historic painting, Pompton Plains, NJ.
Tuesday May 8th 2012, the courts and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection reached an agreement that will permit Wayne's Top Soil Depot to continue the storage of cancer-causing PCBs, dioxins, heavy metals, and other toxic waste from the Marcal Paper Plant directly upstream of residential Wayne and Pequannock.  This 3 part series will explore the 30 year history of hazardous dumping at the site as well as the potential health impact for downstream communities.


Part II


Toothless Agreements, and a Hands-Off Court


On May 8th, state Judge Margaret Mary McVeigh agreed to forgo any further punishment of Allan Rombough Sr. at this time, in light of a settlement "in principle" which the owner of Wayne's Top Soil Depot had reached with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.


That means that under the new agreement, Rombough will have 5 years to remove Kaofin materials for the site and to comply with NJ DEP regulations, without risk of further prosecution, so long as he complies with the terms of the agreement.  The terms have yet to be defined, but will likely include a wide variety of monitoring measures to ensure that progress is being made on the clean-up.


Exposed Kaofin (in grey), some 10 meters from the waterway.
McVeigh's acquiescence in the matter signals the end of a long court battle, the culmination of some 30 years of NJ DEP regulations wantonly ignored and broken on the part of Rombough, without the taxpayer cost of incarcerating Rombough and in light of his claims of incompetence due to Parkinson's disease.

Robert Kinney, state deputy attorney general representing the NJ DEP, stated that the nuts and bolts of the agreement were in place, but that the details had yet to be worked out.

Neither Kinney nor McVeigh addressed directly the harm that Rombough has caused, in the costs of prosecuting his case which was only brought to such an extent as a result of his blatant disregard for the law, or the toxic Kaofin waste which travelled from the Wayne Top Soil Depot site into the adjacent waterways on 3 recorded occasions and likely during Hurricane Irene as well.

The Carcinogens Next Door

While many find Rombough's actions galling, even offensive, the worst part of the recent decision is not even the considerable damage that has been done already, but the harm that may come as a result of these Kaofin stockpiles continuing to seep into the river and to taking up valuable flood storage space.

Victims of flooding throughout the Passaic Valley have had to deal with dangers ranging from electrical concerns, fuel oil spills, the ever present sewage, and river-borne parasites, now they will have to content with the continued risk of a slurry of toxic chemicals working their way into their homes, kitchen gardens, and parklands.  Even the water supply is not isolated from contamination, as intake pipes for some reservoirs lie downstream of Top Soil Depot.

There is a tendency in situations like this to draw the obvious parallels to landmark cases such as the events upon which "Erin Brockovich" was based or the cancer concerns currently plaguing nearby Pompton Lakes, with its groundwater contaminated as a result of a toxic plume caused by the old Dupont plant.  Again and again, New Jersey seems to put the rights of private corporations to pursue a profit above the safety of its citizens.  In light of the far reaching consequences with which downstream communities like Pequannock are faced, the DEP's latest agreement can be considered lackadaisical at best, though many find it more akin to criminal negligence.

Part 3, appearing on Tuesday May 21st will discuss the potential ramifications of Top Soil Depot's actions as well as what the most recent court decision may mean for municipalities downstream of the dump. 

Christopher Lotito is a member of the Pequannock Historic District, Open Space, and Flood Control Advisory Commissions as well as the author of  "Torrent," a book about flooding in the region.  Lotito's personal mission is to reduce new taxes, drastically reduce flooding, and preserve more green spaces for our children.  Christopher Lotito Profile

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