The APP reports:
Last week, following a rising tide of protests, the state Department of Environmental Protection ordered a site where thousands of trash bags full of sacred Jewish text and clothing were dumped to be cleaned up. Because of the religious sensitivity, however, DEP is permitting the burial to occur as a temporary solution until it decides where and how to relocate it.
“Our long-term goal would be to have this material be disposed of at a proper location. We don’t feel the current location is the proper location,” said Wolf Skacel, DEP’s assistant commissioner of compliance and enforcement. “In the interim, I think the safer option for the public and out of respect for the religious (needs), we’ve at least allowed him to cover it at this time.”
Although there’s no actual religious exemption, the agency is treading lightly, allowing, for now, a landfill that normally would take a county public hearing, inclusion into the county plans and a permit application to the DEP before being permitted.
There’s been no word yet on when or where the some 2,000 bags will be moved. Rabbi Chaim Abadi, who organized the drop-off site during Passover, is expected to meet with DEP officials next week to discuss options.
“If we were insensitive to the religious side of it, it would appear that someone has created an illegal landfill,” Skacel said in a phone interview today. “But once you understand the religious side, you just have to see where it would have the least amount of environmental impact.”
The DEP did issue a warning April 1 for operating an illegal solid waste facility on the wooded property off Vermont Avenue.
Rabbi Abadi has grown more frustrated over the past week as Lakewood residents continue to loudly condemn a practice that has been commonplace for years.
“Other towns don’t want us, so we’re stuck in Lakewood,” Abadi said. “It’s part of Jewish life to bury these religious items. People that don’t like it don’t have to stay here.”
By now, the bags in the hole have been buried, Abadi said. He expects to plant grass there in the coming days.