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September 19, 2003

DEP Fines Warren County Facility for Water Pollution Violations

TRENTON – New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) today announced that Organic Agriculture, Inc. (OAI) located in Warren County was issued a $15,000 fine for illegally discharging pollutants into a tributary of the Pequest River.

“Organic Agriculture’s repeated failure to address inadequate stormwater runoff controls is irresponsible and disregards the public’s right to clean water resources,” said DEP Commissioner Bradley M. Campbell. “The Pequest River is prime habitat for wildlife such as trout, and the river’s health and water quality are at risk when companies like Organic Agriculture make environmental compliance a low priority.”

OAI owns and operates a facility located at 101 East Quarry Road in Oxford Township that stores soil blends containing sludge products known as Marketable Residual Product (MRP) or Meadow Life, which is produced and distributed by the Middlesex County Utilities Authority. OAI blends MRP with other soil and stores the blend on site prior to distribution as soil conditioner to establish and maintain agronomic and horticultural crops, for landfill cover or land reclamation projects. While the DEP considers the reuse of sludge materials for reclamation projects beneficial to the environment, OAI failed to manage its soil blends in a manner protective of the area’s water resources.

Responding to local resident and township complaints, on April 3, 2003 DEP enforcement officers inspected OAI and observed dark brown runoff from the southeast corner of a large stockpile of soil blends containing MRP. The contaminated runoff was entering an intermittent stream that empties into a pasture adjacent to a tributary of the Pequest River. The DEP issued OAI a Notice of Violation (NOV) on April 4, as well as on May 1, and August 7 after two subsequent inspections coordinated with the Warren County Health Department revealed similar runoff violations.

During the inspections, DEP enforcement officers collected samples of the dark brown runoff from the stockpile of soil blends that had accumulated in the tributary stream. The samples revealed that the runoff contained metals including nickel, zinc and copper, and very high levels of ammonia. MRP is defined as a pollutant under state environmental laws.

In addition to a $15,000 fine, OAI was ordered to discontinue receiving MRP from the Middlesex County Utilities Authority. The DEP also has required that the amount of soil blends containing MRP stockpiled on the site be reduced from 45,000 cubic yards to 20,000 cubic yards by October 31, 2003.

OAI has requested an administrative hearing to contest the DEP penalty.

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