By John Burton
MIDDLETOWN – State Police have arrested two men in the township and are searching for a third man as state authorities continue in their aggressive statewide crackdown on the illegal dumping in state parks and other state-owned properties.
State Police arrested Matthew Pereira, 44, and Dennis Smith, 33, who both live in the township’s Leonardo section, charging them with leaving waste material at the Leonardo State Marina. Authorities also have issued a warrant for the arrest of Luis Salmon, a 41-year-old Long Branch man, seeking him the same offense, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
According to authorities, Pereira was hired by a Hazlet homeowner to replace a fence and remove large amounts of construction and household debris, including a fireplace mantle and a mailbox. The items were found in a pile of trash on the marina property.
Smith, who was charged with attempted illegal dumping and illegal transportation of solid waste, was observed by a State Police detective and township police officer driving his pickup truck full of trash on the Leonardo beach in an area of previous illegal dumping activity, according to the DEP.
Salmon is facing charges after his Wave Runner watercraft was found earlier in May, abandoned in the area of other illegal dumped material on the Leonardo beach, authorities said.
Pereira, who was released on $1,500 bail, faces a maximum fine of $75,000 with a conviction. Police impounded Smith’s car; he could be fined as much as $15,000 if convicted of the charges. Salmon could receive a fine of $35,000, if convicted, authorities said.
The stepped up enforcement is part of the DEP’s “Don’t Waste Our Open Space” campaign to pursue civil and criminal complaints against violators and seek stiffer penalties, while raising awareness of the problem of illegally dumping and its impact on the environment and cost to taxpayers.
Nearly all of the state’s 170 publicly owned tracts, including state parks, forests, wildlife management areas, marinas and natural and land reserves, which amount to more than 813,000 acres in the 21 counties, have been impacted by illegal dumping. The dumping has included everything from construction debris and old TVs and computers to auto parts, tires and entire vehicles.
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