BYRAM — After taking initial steps in 2019 to draft a soil importation ordinance, the Byram Township Council has revisited the topic.


The topic of adopting “dirty dirt” ordinances among the local municipalities has especially been on the radar of government bodies after a Vernon resident’s property was found in March 2019 to have elevated levels of volatile organic compounds, pesticides and PCBs. A municipal judge ruled that resident was responsible for the cleanup of a 75-foot high mountain of tainted dirt, fined him $60,260 and sentenced him to 30 days in jail. In January, Gov. Phil Murphy signed off on legislation to curtail the trafficking of dirty dirt.


The Byram Council discussed its draft soil importation ordinance at its meeting on Feb. 18, with Township Engineer Cory Stoner of Harold Pellow & Associates spearheading the discussion. Stoner began working on the ordinance per the authorization of the council. Joseph Sabatini, the township manager, said the township’s Planning Board had previously attempted to create its own soil importation ordinance, but the ordinance did not move forward. As part of the process with the new draft ordinance, the Planning Board will make recommendations and comments before it is introduced by the council for its public hearing, Sabatini said.


Among key points of the ordinance is the identification of when a permit for soil delivery is required of a resident or business. Although the draft stated a permit would not be required for soil deliveries less than 25 cubic yards over the period of one year, it was discussed between the council and audience that a higher threshold before a permit is necessary, might be preferable. In some cases, the council and audience members discussed, more soil may be necessary depending on a property owner’s need, for example a property with a drainage issue.


Permits, in the current draft, would also be broken down into “minor” and “major” categories, with the approval of the zoning officer required up to a threshold and for major cases, further approval from the township engineer. Rather than duplicating the permitting process, such as if a resident is replacing their septic and already has applied for permitting for that work, in those cases, another permit for the soil would not be necessary.


The soil’s origin would be another component of the application process, to ensure that the soil is clean. Under certain conditions, trucking information to determine the soil’s origins may be necessary. Stoner said a permit would be denied if conditions of the ordinance were not met, such as if soil samples did not test clean.


Once a soil importation ordinance is in place, Sabatini said, another component will be educating the public about its parameters, especially for the average homeowner to know when a soil permit is necessary.


Jennifer Jean Miller can also be reached by phone at: 973-383-1230; on Facebook: www.Facebook.com/JMillerNJH and on Twitter: www.twitter.com/JMillerNJH.