In addition to the safety hazards, there are health concerns, especially for children. Jones said the property in the Bergen Square neighborhood is a block away from a charter school.
“Children on the way to school walk past this pile of dirt, breathing in this pile of toxic materials,” he said. “Children cannot fight off toxins the way adults can.”
Residents and officials, including Camden Mayor Vic Carstarphen, have called the property an example of environmental racism. The state’s lawsuit was one of seven announced in May that deals with environmental justice under then-Attorney General Gurbir Grewal. The attorney general’s office said the suits collectively involve a broad range of alleged environmental abuses by property owners including illegal dumping and the release of gasoline and other toxins from underground storage tanks.
The amended complaint is one of the first actions by Bruck, who took over the Attorney General’s Office in an acting capacity upon the departure of Grewal for the Securities and Exchange Commission. In a news release, Bruck said racial justice cannot be achieved without environmental justice.
“No community in New Jersey should be used as an illegal dumping ground, and no resident of this state should have their health and safety put at risk by illegal dumping near their home,” Bruck said.
Shawn LaTourette, DEP commissioner, called the “ever-growing” dirt pile “intolerable.”
A ‘cease operations’ order for the site was issued by the city of Camden in April, according to the Attorney General’s Office. Though Weyhill ceased operations, the pile remains.
In addition to calling for the testing of the air and soil and health screenings for residents, Jones will be convening a town hall meeting near the dump site to discuss a class action lawsuit on behalf of residents.
“People have been harmed,” he said. “Just removing the contaminated dirt is just a step. If people have been harmed, then they need to be compensated, and that neighborhood needs to be rebuilt based upon the harm that’s been inflicted on them and what they had to endure all these years.”