Taking out trash brings big trouble with D.E.P. for local business

| 21 Feb 2012 | 10:48

    Franklin-Recently, Furniture Direct of North Carolina, a Route 23 business, encountered some trouble when storeowners Patricia and Dale Postel went to the Lafayette Municipal Waste Facility to dispose of their store waste. On July 20, Dale Postel went to the landfill with a load of plastic and cardboard, just as he had been doing for the past three years. On his way into the landfill, however, he was pulled aside by a representative of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and issued a summons for dumping in violation of the Solid Waste Management Act. He was informed that the business must submit a letter within ten days explaining "corrective measures" that it will be taking, or the Postels would no longer be allowed to dump at the landfill. Later that same day, Furniture Direct received a pamphlet detailing waste removal services and the associated fees from a local waste removal contractor. After receiving the citation, the Postels received an "Enforcement Alert." The ‘alert' said that allowing smaller independent businesses to use the dump under residential waste-disposal regulations gave them an unfair advantage over solid waste contractors. State regulations seem to require small businesses to justify their need for a permit to dump their own waste. The state allows counties to issue the permits, but Sussex County officials told the Postels that they would have to go to Trenton and present their case there in person. The Postels were told by a private hauler that if they chose to use a waste removal company, they would be required to have at least three dumpsters to sort out their garbage by type; one for cardboard, another for plastic, and another for old furniture pieces and other waste. These dumpsters could cost the Postels $1,500 to $1,600 a month in rental costs. That's more money than a small business trying to compete against chain stores can afford to spend, the Postels say. "There were three days of phone calls, and nobody was responsible for anything. She probably made about 25 to 30 phone calls," said Dale Postel of his wife Patricia's efforts. The Postels were finally able to get Warren County to process an application for a D.E.P. Solid Waste Permit. The interview consisted of completing the correct forms and then having them notarized. When contacted, Jim McDonald of the Sussex County Health Department said that Sussex County does not process the applications. He referred all questions to the N.J.D.E.P. Warren County also referred all questions to D.E.P. headquarters in Trenton. Patricia Postel wants to know why she was unable to fill out the forms and have them processed in Sussex County. "Counties are at their own discretion to issue," said a D.E.P. spokesperson, when asked if all counties are required to process permit applications and issue decals. "It's up to the interviewing county and whether or not they want to dedicate the hours and staff to the process." "I've been given estimates anywhere from two weeks to nine months to get the sticker, which expires April, 2005," Patricia Postel said. "By the time I get the sticker, it could already be expired. I'm trying to comply, but what do I do with my garbage in the meantime?" The D.E.P. says registrations will typically be processed the day of a face-to-face interview and should be received within two weeks of the interview date. Full licenses, however, can take from six weeks to nine months to be processed and issued. Whether or not a business is licensed or registered depends upon business size and type. Smaller businesses are most likely to fall into one of the licensing exceptions. For example, an owner "hauling waste ancillary to their business" is an exemption, said a D.E.P. official. The registration/license is issued for a two-year period, ending every odd numbered year. This means that the Postels will pay for a two-year permit that will last less than one year. Regardless of application time, the permits are issued biennially to smaller businesses. Larger haulers, such as those that service municipalities, are issued five-year licenses. John Hatzelis, administrator of the Sussex County Municipal Utilities Authority in Lafyette, says, "There is some question about the issuing of citations to self-generators. Self-generators could be you as a homeowner bringing the waste from your home. And there are exemptions." Citations are being issued to small business owners who generate their own waste but carry commercial license plates on their vehicles. "I believe they are incorrect in issuing these citations," says Hatzelis, "I believe that [small business owners] are exempt. We're working on getting this clarified, but it will take some time." "It's a misapplication of a well-intended law," said Hatzelis, who believes there is room for clarity within the legislation. The Postels say it feels like they are being forced into the position of having to hire a waste removal contractor to dispose of their garbage. They are unable to transport their waste to the landfill pending receipt of their decal. If they continue to transport their own waste to the landfill, until they receive the permit, they would be "subject to penalties of up to $50,000 per day/offense."