Home > Our Work > Blog > Dirty Dumping in Pemberton 

Dirty Dumping in Pemberton 

Illegal Wetlands Filling at Former Cranberry Farm in Pemberton Township



On February 7, 2024 a line of dump trucks was observed lined up along Magnolia Road in Pemberton Township. One at a time, each truck delivered its payload of fill into the wetlands on either side of the road cutting through the property. A witness followed one of the trucks from Pemberton to a recycling facility in North Jersey (Rahway Recycling & Materials Inc.) where it was refilled and sent back to Pemberton. It is unknown if the other trucks, hailing from multiple other trucking companies, were bringing fill from the same site or a different one.  

This former cranberry farm was acquired in late 2023 by Zero Magnolia LLC, supposedly with the goal of creating an agri-tourism business. The dumping operation was being carried out to widen the driveway and facilitate traffic flow to large events such as weddings. Aerial footage of the Pemberton site shows that about 11,000 square feet of forested wetlands have been filled in total, which would take about 60 truckloads; this matches the frequency with which trucks had been seen arriving at the site after at least 3 days of this dumping activity. 

The properties involved (Pemberton Township Block 841, lots 23, 25, 28, 29, 30, 44, 47, 48) are almost entirely wetlands under the jurisdiction of the Pinelands Commission. The day that the illegal dumping was noticed, knowledgeable individuals from multiple organizations contacted every relevant authority in an attempt to stop the dumping. Responding officers from the state did not have the authority to stop the work. A township official was willing to accept excuses for a lack of permits, as the owner’s representative promised to submit the paperwork later. There is no paperwork that could justify this filling of Pinelands wetlands.  

As the Pinelands Commission wrote in its 2/21/24 letter to the property owner: “any widening of the existing driveway would be inconsistent with the wetlands protection standards contained in the Pemberton Township land use ordinance and the Pinelands Comprehensive Management Plan (CMP)”. However, this may become yet another case in which it is more expedient to beg forgiveness than to ask permission, as the letter goes on to explain that they would only mandate the removal of this fill/soil if it is found to be contaminated.  

The NJDEP seems reluctant to do any real testing of the unvetted fill that was trucked in from recycling facilities in North Jersey to expand an old cranberry farm road running through wetlands. Their staff indicated in interviews with the Pine Barrens Tribune that they felt a visual assessment was sufficient. However, the most insidious contaminants such as lead and PFAS cannot be visually detected. 

Ariel view of dumping site in Pemberton
Ariel view of dumping site in Pemberton

On February 9th the NJDEP issued a notice of violation, which gave the property owner 10 days to respond with a plan to remedy the violation. It is unknown if the property owner ever followed through with this. That same day, Pemberton Township directed the owner to ‘cease and desist’ this activity. The Pinelands Commission chimed in with its own objections to the dumping on February 21. 

Although the work has stopped, it is unclear if the owner will experience any actual consequences, or if the soil/fill itself will be tested for contamination. While these notices of violations from various government agencies gather dust, the plentiful spring rain will continue to leach whatever contaminants this soil may contain into our Pinelands aquifers.  PPA is continuing to push for real accountability for this violation. We are also advocating for fixes to the ineffective enforcement systems that allowed the dumping to continue for multiple days in broad daylight.  

The majority of this land is preserved. Previous owners ‘severed’ most of the Pinelands Development Credits (read more about PDC’s on our blog) that were associated with the lots. The owners retained the rights to build just 3 dwellings within this ~380 acre expanse of land.  


2/7/2024: Witnesses of the dumping contacted NJDEP, the Pinelands Commission, Pemberton Township, and environmental organizations.  


  • NJDEP issued a notice of violation (Incident No./PI: 0329-24-0001.1) for “The unauthorized placement of an undetermined amount of fill material within regulated freshwater wetlands, FEMA mapped Zone A floodplain, and the riparian zone of Jade Run tributary.” 
  • Pemberton Township sent an email directing the property owner to cease and desist the activities associated with the driveway improvements. 

2/21/2024: The Pinelands Commission sent a letter to the property owner, describing the ways that this violates both the Township land use ordinance and the Pinelands CMP. 

3/21/2024: Pine Barren Tribune Article published. 

Enforcement: Too Little, Too Late 

This episode underscores the ineffectiveness of relying on towns to enforce Pinelands rules. We need some other means that can stop damage in progress, rather than just waiting to clean things up after-the-fact when towns fail to act. Although we cannot expect town officials to have memorized the entirety of the Pinelands Comprehensive Management Plan (CMP), a pretty good rule of thumb is that almost nothing can be done in wetlands or wetlands buffer zones–any deviation from this would require an extensive application and justification to the Pinelands Commission.  

If you’re ever curious what wetlands have been mapped in the Pinelands, you can use the Pinelands Interactive Map tool to find out. In the image below, wetlands are indicated with a dark blue color, and the surrounding 300-foot buffer with a light blue color. Light blue lines enclose the parcels under common ownership where the dumping occurred. It does not take any special training to see that every square inch of these properties in Pemberton are composed entirely of wetlands or wetlands buffer. 

News, Events & More

Stay Connected