A Hudson County Superior Court judge ruled last Monday that a private North Bergen trash collection company must clean up its operations by Sept. 15 or face the possibility of closure – and frustrated township officials wholeheartedly applauded.
Superior Court Judge Thomas Olivieri gave the Dell Street-based trash company P&N/SJG Recycling Specialists until this Monday to make significant changes in their facilities or face being shut down, due to a series of violations that were cited by the Hudson Regional Health Commission last week.
Upon investigation of the site, the HRHC hit P&N with nine state regulation violations after a series of complaints from neighbors of rancorous odors and sightings of rodents and insects.
“They have flagrantly violated variances of the Solid Waste Management Act,” said township spokesman Craig Schmalz. “In fact, they don’t even own a solid waste facility permit.”
Several years ago, the facility was slated to be used strictly for recycling purposes, but in recent years, P&N, which does not collect garbage in North Bergen or anywhere in Hudson County but does in several other New Jersey municipalities, began to collect solid waste, using its North Bergen location as a collection dumping site.
“The facility was supposed to be enclosed as well, but it is not,” North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco said. “There is supposed to a limit on the tonnage that they collect, but they’re apparently violating that. The garbage remains there for a long time and it brings about odors, rodents and insects. This problem goes back many years. They haven’t been operating properly for a long time.”
Sacco added, “It’s been a tremendous hardship for the township, especially the people living in that area for a long period. We’ve spent a lot of time and effort trying to rectify the situation.”
According to representatives of the HRHC, after examining the site, it was determined that P&N allegedly was leaving solid waste on its tipping floor for more than 24 hours. It also allegedly exceeded the 353 tons of solid waste it is allowed to collect at the site, allowed spillage of diesel and waste oil, and didn’t properly enclose the area containing the solid waste.
State and municipal fines totaling more than $200,000 have been levied against the firm for the violations. P&N has already paid more than $65,000 in municipal fines that were assessed against the company for prior violations.
Upon receiving the information from the HRHC and the state Department of Environmental Protection, the township decided to file a lawsuit against P&N for the violations.
“We were asking the judge to restrain P&N from taking on more trash,” Schmalz said. “And if they didn’t comply [with] the violations, then we could force their closure.”
However, Olivieri did not agree with the closure request, giving P&N a week to make the necessary improvements and to take 100 tons of waste away from the location per day.
All sides will re-appear in front of Olivieri in Superior Court Monday for the latest chapter in the dilemma.
The owners of P&N, Patrick and Ronald Stamato, did not return phone calls at press time. However, Patrick Stamato told the Jersey Journal that the incident is a “total misunderstanding” and that his company was “going above what the requirements are.”
Schmalz also said that the township has received complaints about the business’ vehicles, which have been parked on side streets, causing traffic and other nuisances to the residents of the neighborhood.
“They’ve been working on their trucks at 4 a.m., which is a violation of noise ordinances,” Schmalz said. “They’ve been waking neighbors up with the truck noise. It’s been a general nuisance. They gave us a statement that they were not going to violate the ordinances again, but they never complied. They never do what they’re supposed to do.”
This was just the latest in a series of woes that the company has endured in the past year. In July, more than 70 workers, most of whom were of Hispanic descent, staged a work stoppage, claiming that P&N was underpaying its workers and issuing bounced payroll checks.
P&N officials maintain that the workers were associated with another company and that the workers were not P&N employees, but were contracted by another firm.
The illegal diesel fuel dumping charge can cause a further headache for P&N, as the North Hudson Regional Fire & Rescue is considering a $250,000 fine for illegal diesel fuel contamination.
Sacco said that he had meetings with the HRHC, the Hudson County Improvement Authority and the NHRFR concerning the matter Wednesday morning.
“We want to fight to have any garbage on that land,” Sacco said. “We also want to make sure that everything is enforced. I just feel that it’s going to be a lengthy situation, in and out of court. We’re trying to monitor the situation and we’re encouraging residents who have concerns to call the necessary authorities to help enforce this.”