Environmental group demands additional enforcement against company for illegal dumping

    An environmental group is demanding that New Jersey officials take additional action against a construction company that was caught last month dumping material illegally in a Monmouth County municipality. 

    Clean Ocean Action, a Sandy Hook-based organziation that fights for water quality, wants the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection to cite Agate Construction Co., Inc. of Ocean View in Cape May County for violating the Clean Water Act.

    In a story that NewsWorks and Jersey Shore Hurricane News (JSHN) broke on Feb. 19 after receiving a tip from the “COBRA: Citizens in Opposition to Beach Restrictive Access” Facebook group, the company, a subcontractor for an Army Corps of Engineers outfall construction project in Deal, excavated sediment from the Poplar Brook and illegally deposited it on the beach and in the ocean, NJDEP spokesman Larry Hajna said hours after the state agency received numerous complaints. 

    “They were caught with mud on their hands by local defenders of the ocean and must be held accountable. Let this serve as a clear message to others, if you pollute you will be caught and prosecuted to the fullest extent of ALL laws,” said Clean Ocean Action Executive Director Cindy Zipf in a release. 

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    The company was subsequently cited for violating the Waterfront Development Act and the Coastal Area Facility Review Act. 

    Hajna told NewsWorks last month that Agate “has to demonstrate compliance” with the two state acts, adding that the citations do not carry specific penalties but are to ensure that the company removes the material from the beach. The spokesman also said that penalities “could be part of the further process.”

    As of late last week, no fines have been issued.

    “The DEP is continuing investigate and is reviewing its compliance and enforcement options,” Hajna said last week in an email requesting comment on the Clean Ocean Action request. 

    Clean Ocean Action outlines it demands in a letter to the NJDEP:

    The Department must determine what date the illegal dumping activities first commenced, quantify the volume of irrecoverable material dumped into the ocean, and determine whether the material dumped into the ocean was contaminated, and to what level, in order to protect human health and safety, assess the magnitude of environmental harm, and determine the proper enforcement actions and penalties, including Clean Water Act violations, to levy against Agate Construction.

    In a release, Clean Ocean Action attorney Zachary Lees noted that the state has a duty to ensure the protection of public health and safety.

    “How can NJDEP determine the proper enforcement actions and penalties to levy against Agate Construction if they don’t know the content and quantity of the muck?” he said. 

    Andrew Chambarry, a Monmouth County attorney and founder of the COBRA group, said he’s pleased that Clean Ocean Action has taken the lead in advocating for harsher penalities against the contractor. 

    “We hope that the NJDEP files a Clean Water Act violation against Agate,” he said. “Hopefully, Agate knows that we are watching them and we will not stand for damage to our beaches.”

    Numerous calls to Agate seeking comment were not returned. 

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