In a court hearing Tuesday, Superior Court Judge Thomas Olivieri ordered Patrick and Ronald Stamato, the owners of P&N/SJG Recycling Specialists, to come up with another option for removing the nearly 3,000-ton backlog of trash at the Dell Avenue complex before Olivieri could lift the order to temporarily shut down the facility last month.
On Oct. 10, P&N/SJG Recycling Specialists agreed to stop accepting new trash until they remove the existing piles that have caused numerous headaches to local residents, including foul odors, standing water, massive dust, rodents and insects.
Olivieri told the Stamato brothers' attorney, David DeClement, that there was no excuse for having such a backlog of trash for so long and having a reliable plan to clear the tipping floor of the facility every single day to prevent such a gigantic backlog.
Plus, two days after the last court hearing, a fire broke out that caused significant damage. Fire officials have now determined that the source of the fire was caused by sparks coming from a faulty conveyor belt.
"The recipe was there for a disaster and thankfully that did not happen," Olivieri said in making his ruling.
DeClement told Olivieri that he hoped to have a formal and detailed plan for the removal of the trash delivered to the judge as soon as possible, in order to alleviate the problems.
Representatives from both the Hudson Regional Health Commission and the North Bergen Department of Health have formally asked Olivieri to permanently shut down the facility, because the Stamato brothers have been in constant violation of their township-approved permits.
The HRHC and the township have filed charges against the Stamato brothers, stating that they have been taking in far more trash than allowed by law and have not properly cleaned their trash collection areas on a consistent basis.
Since the matter might not come to trial for as long as eight months, Olivieri told the representatives from both sides that he would be "hard-pressed" to close the facility for such an extended period of time.
However, until the existing trash is removed sufficiently, he vowed not to allow the owners to take on more trash.
The HRHC sued the Stamato brothers' company in September, alleging that it failed to remove waste and clean the floors within the required 24-hour period, exceeded capacity limits, and improperly allowed waste, litter, and dust to accumulate on its property.
In a related matter outside of the courtroom, the state Department of Environmental Protection denied P&N's application to handle an additional 100 tons of waste a day at the facility.
The Stamatos filed for a permit modification last November, seeking to increase the facility's capacity from 353 tons per day to 452 tons per day.
In a letter last week, Anthony Fontana, the chief of the state Bureau of Hazardous Waste and Transfer Facilities, cited repeated permit and regulatory violations, which caused the state DEP to deny the request.
Once the existing lawsuit is resolved or settled, and if P&N abides with the rules and regulations of the permit, then P&N could re-apply for the added load. However, the state DEP could bring action to terminate the permit permanently if the violations persist.
If that happens, that would make township officials very happy. They would like to see P&N go away - as long as they take their accumulated trash with them.