Vernon dirt pile

Sean Adams/WCBS 880

Neighbors Concerned About Growing Dirt Pile On Vernon Property

May 23, 2019 - 10:08 am

VERNON, N.J. (WCBS 880) -- A giant pile of dirt in one New Jersey town has residents worried about the drinking water.

For roughly a decade, residents in Vernon have complained about a growing mountain of debris on private property in a residential neighborhood. While the view from the road shows just the top of the pile on Silver Spruce Drive, on the other side -- beyond the "no trespassing" signs, the dirt stands 75-feet tall on a slope across 2 1/2 acres.

The state Department of Environmental Protection has tested the soil and found carcinogens, PCBs and a pesticide.

"They only went down to a depth of approximately 3-feet. Possible carcinogenics have been found to be there," Vernon Mayor Harry Shortway tells WCBS 880's Sean Adams. "We want to know what's 40, 50, 60 feet down in that pile. Most of our water source here are by private wells. There is great concern that contaminants could be leaking into the wells."

Vernon dirt pile
Sean Adams/WCBS 880

Shortway calls it an illegal dump, but property owner Joseph Wallace has insisted he's just been leveling off his land after a washout from Hurricane Irene.

Shortway is concerned contaminants could be leaking into the wells, but so far tests have not shown any contamination of the water. But there is fear of runoff.

"This should be a concern for all those in the state, not just located in the the Highlands, but 5.4 million get their water from the Highlands," Shortway said.

The town, Sussex County and now the state are trying to end the parade of dump trucks.

"It needs to be cleaned up," Shortway said.

Wallace has admitted to illegal dumping in New York state and is back in court in New Jersey next week.