TRENTON – Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Catherine R. McCabe today joined Trenton Mayor Reed Gusciora, other city officials and volunteers to launch a community project to remove materials from a large illegal dumping site in Trenton as part of the DEP’s statewide environmental justice efforts.
This is the first phase in the cleanup of the Amtico Square site and results from concerns residents raised at an environmental justice listening session held by Commissioner McCabe and the city last fall.
“This cleanup is a direct, tangible response to concerns I heard from residents during an environmental justice listening session and is a great example of putting into practice environmental justice principles to improve quality of life for disproportionately burdened communities,” Commissioner McCabe said. “The City of Trenton and Mayor Gusciora have been constructive and dedicated partners in this effort, from the listening session to the eventual conversion of this site to public use. As is our goal with all environmental justice projects, we will continue to revitalize our communities and protect public health to make New Jersey stronger and fairer. I am grateful for the strong partnerships and community support for their collaboration to transform this eyesore and public safety hazard into a community asset.”
“Programs like these showcase the continued partnership between Trenton and state government,” said Mayor Gusciora. “We’d also like to thank our partners at the New Jersey DEP and United by Blue for coordinating and funding this site cleanup. We have many stakeholders working to create a 100-plus acre park at the Assunpink Greenway, and we’re very excited about our future plans for these formerly vacant brownfield sites.”
Commissioner McCabe and Mayor Gusciora were joined in launching the cleanup of Amtico Square by volunteers with the East Trenton Collaborative and Isles Inc. community groups, members of Trenton City Council, the city’s public works department, the Bridgestone Corp. and United by Blue, a socially conscious organization that works to protect the environment and has helped coordinate similar cleanups in the region.
This initial phase is focusing on removing materials dumped illegally on the property in recent years, including debris from housing demolitions, tires, and large household items such as furniture, mattresses and appliances. The property also has numerous piles of bricks and concrete, most resulting from the demolition of a large building at the site. These piles will be addressed as part of future long-term cleanup.
The city is providing heavy equipment and workers. United by Blue has agreed to pay for the hauling and disposal of household items collected at the site. Bridgestone Corp. has also agreed to take tires to be recycled.
United by Blue is committed to protecting the health of waterways through trash and debris removal projects, including an effort last year to protect the Delaware River through a cleanup of trash and large debris on Burlington Island, part of the DEP-coordinated South Jersey Scrub. The group provides safety precautions to volunteers participating in these cleanups.
“We have developed an expertise for organizing logistically challenging cleanups such as the Amtico Square cleanup,” said United by Blues’ High Yields Cleanup Coordinator Megan Platt. “A project like this brings together private and public entities to meet a collective goal of cleaning our water and the surrounding environment. In this case, we're intercepting debris before it has the chance of making it into Assunpink Creek – a tributary of the Delaware River.”
“Isles has been a long-term partner in the East Trenton Collaborative. During that time, we’ve worked with other organizations and residents to clean-up and improve public space by building gardens, beautifying parks and vacant lots, and planting street trees,” said Jim Simon, Deputy Director of Community Planning for Isles Inc. “We are also committed to making this East Trenton Collaborative neighborhood and other neighborhoods safer by addressing home health hazards and helping turn blighted properties like Amtico Square into community assets by engaging residents in a brownfields planning process.”
The Amtico Square site sits across from the home Gwendolyn Grier has lived in for more than 50 years. She is concerned about the impact dumping there has had on quality of life and health of her neighborhood.
“We’re hoping to get something for the kids, because right now it’s just an eyesore,” she said.
Other key partners are the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General, the Trenton Police Department and the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office, which are working to gather evidence throughout the process to inform investigations that may lead to prosecution of those responsible for the illegal dumping. Those responsible may face civil and/or criminal charges as well as significant fines.
Located along Assunpink Creek in East Trenton, the Amtico Square site is a 3.5-acre vacant area that once was the site of various rubber factories and other industries. It was most recently used for warehousing.
The building that occupied much of the site was demolished in 2013. The concrete foundation of the building today covers much of the site. Sampling of the ground below the foundation shows slightly elevated levels of contaminants, including metals and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.
The city purchased the site as part of the Assunpink Greenway Brownfield Development Area project that envisions turning brownfield sites such as Amtico Square site into active and passive recreation parkland and a greenway trail along the Assunpink Creek, extending from the Hamilton border to downtown Trenton.
The Murphy Administraton has made addressing environmental justice a priority, launching legal actions against those responsible for pollution in these communities, making environmental justice considerations a priority in the state’s air quality and clean energy initiatives, and helping communities clean up contaminated sites and improve water quality.
In 2018, Governor Murphy signed Executive Order 23 recognizing that the state’s low-income communities and communities of color have been exposed to disproportionately high and unacceptable levels of air, water and soil pollution, with the ongoing potential for health impacts. The order emphasizes that all communities should receive fair and equitable treatment in decision-making that affects their environment, communities, homes and health.
Achieving these environmental justice objectives is also one of the DEP’s key priority areas, through work that focuses on empowering communities to take action, protects public health and the environment in overburdened communities, and strengthens partnerships among communities, regulated entities and government.
The DEP is coordinating the Amtico Square cleanup through its Compliance and Enforcement Program and the Community Collaborative Initiative, which assigns DEP experts to work closely with urban communities to develop solutions to long-standing environmental problems.
As part of the first phase of cleanup, a fence will be erected around the site and security cameras set up to deter future dumping. The DEP will be coordinating additional environmental investigations of the site to assist the city in future restoration efforts as it moves forward with its greenway vision.
For a drone video of the site, click here.
For more information on the work the DEP is doing to address environmental justice, visit www.nj.gov/dep/ej/
For more information on the Community Collaborative Initiative, including an explanatory video, visit www.nj.gov/dep/cci/