VERNON TOWNSHIP, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – A man at odds with neighbors and officials over a giant, 75-foot high pile of dirt and debris in Vernon Township has lost his battle and now faces jail time.

Joseph Wallace was sentenced to 90 days in Sussex County jail and fined $58,500 on Wednesday after Vernon officials originally issued 82 zoning violation summonses to him since April 2018.

CBS2’s Alice Gainer was at the site on Silver Spruce Drive last month to ask Wallace about the dirt and fill that took years to build.

Wallace will have to serve at least 30 days but 60 days will be suspended as long as he quits his dumping activities.

Officials had questioned where all the material in the fill had come from, including solid waste materials.

“Most of it came from Wayne from a Costco project,” said Wallace to CBS2 in September. “Dirt and class B recyclables.”

Wallace said he was looking for fill after a washout on his property.

He claimed the materials came from a handful of businesses – “recycling centers, masonry yards,” he said – but officials sought more detailed auditing of the materials.

Neighbors say a sign reading “STOP WORK ORDER IN EFFECT, NO FILL MATERIAL ALLOWED” was put up a couple of years ago, but it did little to stop what was going on until the state stepped in to enforce it.

Back in March, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection did testing of fill material that “identified contamination levels in the soil that exceeded New Jersey’s Residential Direct Contact Soil Remediation standards.”

That includes elevated levels of PCBs and pesticides.

After the state alleged Wallace was operating a solid waste facility without a permit, he was given a court order to provide documentation about where the materials came from, what exactly they were, to place funds aside for removal of solid waste in pile and for him to start removing it.

A state case against Wallace, in which the New Jersey Attorney General has asked that Wallace be fined up to $150,000 daily, is ongoing in Superior Court.


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