Reaches Settlement with Branchburg Township for Illegal
Sludge Disposal, Water Pollution Violations & Falsified
(03/167) TRENTON - New
Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner
Bradley M. Campbell today announced a settlement agreement
with Branchburg Township, Somerset County, that addresses
a number of serious water pollution violations, including
their unlawful disposal of sludge and their submittal of
falsified discharge monitoring reports. Branchburg Township
must pay the state $201,600 as part of the settlement agreement.
"We are pleased Branchburg Township
acted quickly to voluntarily disclose their environmental
violations and to correct the problems occurring at their
sewage treatment plants," said Commissioner Campbell.
"While the penalties issued reflect the seriousness
of the violations and their negative impact on the state's
ability to protect water quality, they also take into consideration
Branchburg Township's cooperation and appropriate response."
Upon hiring a new consultant to oversee
the operation of their Fox Hollow and Neshanic Sewage Treatment
Plants, Branchburg Township discovered that their former
operator and employee, Joseph Stracuzzi, had directed the
illegal disposal of sludge from the sewage treatment plants
and falsified discharge monitoring reports submitted to
On at least 65 instances between February
1997 and April 2002, sludge generated from their sewage
treatment plants was discharged into a portion of their
wastewater collection system that flows into the Somerset
Raritan Valley Sewage Authority system. Under state laws,
sludge must be disposed of at a disposal facility approved
by the DEP. Neither the department nor the Somerset Raritan
Valley Sewage Authority were notified or approved of Branchburg's
sludge disposal activities.
In addition, for at least 10 years prior
to May 2002, Mr. Stracuzzi consistently submitted required
discharge monitoring reports for Branchburg Township's Neshanic
Sewage Treatment Plant that indicated that all effluent
sampling required by their DEP permit was properly conducted.
However, after hiring the new consultant to oversee the
operation of the sewer utility, Branchburg Township learned
that random, grab samples instead of composite samples were
consistently taken for solids and oxygen demand. As a result,
the discharge monitoring reports contained false sample
information that the DEP relied upon to make compliance
Also, during May 2001and December 2001,
the DEP cited the Neshanic Sewage Treatment Plant for serious
effluent violations for fecal coliform. In January 2002,
Fox Hollow also received a violation for a serious effluent
violation of fecal coliform.
In an attempt to mitigate the financial
impact of the $201,600 issued to Branchburg Township's sewer
utility, the DEP granted the township a 10-year payment
schedule. The first payment of $20,160 is due March 1, 2004.
In assessing the penalty amount, the DEP took into consideration
that the township self disclosed its violations upon discovery.
In a separate settlement agreement with
Mr. Stracuzzi, the former operator agreed to pay the state
a $2,000 fine for his unlawful activities and accept the
permanent revocation of his wastewater operator licenses.
The DEP operates a water and wastewater license certification
program to ensure that only properly trained and experienced
individuals operate water and wastewater facilities in New
"Licensed individuals who operate
New Jersey's water and wasterwater facilities have an obligation
to serve the public in a professional and lawful manner,"
Campbell added. "This enforcement case clearly demonstrates
that any operator who fails to meet these obligations will
be held individually responsible and will be forced to seek
Failure to properly monitor wastewater
discharge undermines the integrity of the department's New
Jersey Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NJPDES) permit
program, which is based in large part on self-monitoring
and reporting by permittees.
Branchburg Township is currently in compliance
with its DEP permit requirements.