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State fined municipality of Princeton $35,000 for operating illegal dump at sewer facility

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection fined the municipality of Princeton $35,000 for operating a dump without proper permits, public records show.

Employees at the River Road facility in the northeast corner of Princeton allegedly took bribes to allow private contractors to dump waste at the sewer department site located at 290-298 River Road, which is adjacent to the former town landfill and the Stony Brook Regional Sewerage Authority. State officials inspected the site in June after receiving complaints from residents who read Planet Princeton’s stories about the alleged dumping at the site. Planet Princeton had received tips from a whistleblower about the illegal dumping by contractors. At least one contractor was also using municipal employees and town equipment for private jobs. Four employees were fired as a result of the investigative series, and three people were charged with second-degree bribery.

According to public records obtained by Planet Princeton, a representative from the NJDEP had flagged issues at the River Road site back in the winter when she inspected the old landfill, but no one from the NJDEP followed up on her complaint.

State officials sent three billing notices to the municipality for the fines related to operating a dump without a permit. The municipality has not paid the bill yet, according to state records. The charge is listed as open, but also as suspended.

The Princeton Council is slated to hire a law firm Monday night to defend itself against solid waste enforcement actions by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and to deal with other legal environmental issues related to the River Road site. The town is hiring Lyndhurst- based lawyer John Scagnelli of Scarinci & Hollenbeck for costs up to $50,000. The agreement is retroactive to Jan. 1.

Potential costs for the cleanup of the site have not been made public. The sewer department was closed down after the scandal.

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