January 21, 2020

DEP Snapshot: It’s 1971,
The Public Embraces Opportunity to Call New Environmental Action Line

(20/S002) – In April 1971, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection was up and running for a year. It also was six months into the operation of its Environmental Action Line.

Environmental Action Line

An article about the phone line appeared in the Trenton Evening Times on April 23, 1971, with this headline: “Phone Calls Can Help Clean Up This Planet.”

According to the Times, the line was created “… so that abuses of the environment can be reported to the state Department of Environmental Protection.”

The paper reported that “99 percent of all calls have been from private citizens in the North Jersey area” and that the line “receives about 50 phone calls each week.”

And now, a look at 1971 …

The Department of Environmental Protection’s Environmental Action Line was established in October 1970. It received 1,487 calls from the concerned public in its first full year of operation. According to the DEP’s annual report looking at 1971, the action line “became popular with a public that enjoyed a 24 hour-a-day connection direct to the Office of the Commissioner.”

Of the calls that first year, 60 percent were complaints related to air pollution; about 20 percent dealt with water pollution; and the remaining were concerned with solid waste problems, dredging, wetlands, noise, recycling and pesticides.

The Times article indicated that the most common air pollution complaints included incidents of open burning of trash, smoke emissions, soot and fumes from factories, and motor vehicle exhaust – particularly from buses and diesel-fueled trucks.

The number – (609) 292-7172 – is no longer in use. Today, New Jersey residents can call the 24-hour DEP hotline at 1-877-WARN-DEP if they become aware of environmental emergency; they can use the WARN NJDEP mobile app for non-emergencies.