LYNDHURST – The right of states to regulate solid waste processing by users of federally regulated railroads has been upheld by a case in New Jersey

The Board of the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission late last month authorized an agreement requiring a rail-side waste processor in North Bergen to come into full compliance with New Jersey’s laws, ending outstanding litigation against the processor.

This action follows the passage of the Federal Railroad Safety Improvement Act of 2007 by the House of Representatives on October 17, reaffirming the consistent role of state and local regulation over solid waste, despite recent claims by some waste processors to be exempt from oversight due to their utilization of federally regulated railroads.

“Our residents deserve to go to bed at night and send their children off to school the next morning without worrying that a solid waste company will start up a dump in their backyard with nobody watching,” said Joseph Doria, acting chairman of the Meadowlands Commission and acting commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs.

“I am very pleased that all parties support this groundbreaking settlement which recognizes that the health and safety of our families must always come first,� said North Bergen Mayor and State Senator Nicholas Sacco, who brought this issue to the national stage through his defense of his community�s rights.

Under the proposed settlement, approved by the Board, Westside Transload LLC. of North Bergen would agree to follow all applicable regulations for solid waste processing sites.

This would apply to a facility Westside Transload is constructing on the property of the New York Susquehanna and Western Railroad, NYS&W, at 43rd Street in North Bergen.

The settlement will be concluded through the state Attorney General�s Office which has managed the suit on behalf of the Meadowlands Commission and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.

The Meadowlands Commission was granted a temporary injunction on this particular site on July 21, 2006, by the State Superior Court in Jersey City.

The railroad in question, NYS&W, had sent notice to the commission on July 10 notifying the agency that it would commence construction immediately on a rail-side waste operation at 43rd Street in North Bergen despite not having submitted all proper building code and planning documents to the agency. Among the missing documents were fire suppression plans. Nor had the railroad adequately addressed complications presented by an underground oil pipeline at the site, the commission says.

Problems with rail-side waste operations in the region had been highlighted by fires at an operation adjacent to New York & Greenwood Railway Co. rails in Passaic, a fire on an NYS&W train carrying solid waste from a non-permitted waste facility in North Bergen, illegal wetlands fill at another NYS&W rail-side waste site in North Bergen, and the tripping of a circuit on a PSE&G high-power line by a piece of heavy equipment at an NYS&W-related waste operation in North Bergen.

The NYS&W is currently in federal court to dispute a $2.5 million fine by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection for failing to meet basic health, safety and environmental standards and safeguards at rail-side waste sites across the Meadowlands portion of North Bergen, though not for the later Westside Transload facility which is the subject of this proposed settlement.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2007. All rights reserved.