Palmyra, NJ (WTXF) They say the Borough of Palmyra is a great place to grow. Broad Street downtown still looks like a real piece of Americana. But less than a mile away, behind the locked gates, officials say, is a big mess and potentially, a big problem.
“It sickens me. It sickens me that somebody would do that to our community and to our residents. I'm just heartbroken over it," Ulana Zahajkewycz told FOX 29.
It all unfolded on the banks of the Pennsauken Creek, not far from the Delaware River, on piece of ground the borough wanted to see redeveloped. It's right off busy Route 73, next to the Palmyra Cove Nature Park. That all changed, borough and state officials say, when Bradley Sirkin and his company, Jersey Recycling Services came to town in 2013.
“We saw significant environmental degradation. We saw cancer causing agents left behind,” said SCI counsel Andrew Cliver.
Sirkin leased over 100 acres of property from a company named Fillit. State and borough officials say he agreed to bring no more than 20,000 cubic yards of brush, dirt and leaves to the site; mix it and recycle it. Instead, they say, he brought a lot more.
“They were accepting dirt, concrete, brick, rebar. Anything you can think of that is the product of demolition or construction operations,” Cliver explained.
The State Commission of Investigation, borough and state officials say Sirkin illegally brought in nearly 380,000 cubic yards of material. Over 20,000 truckloads that raised the site by 10 to 15 feet.
John Kozieraschi operates Koz's Auto Repair right next to the Jersey recycling site. He remembers all the trucks.
“It was seven days a week, round the clock. At least a hundred trucks during the working hours, just coming in. around the clock," he explained.
"Hundreds of trucks were coming into the site from all over South Jersey, Philadelphia even into the Central Jersey areas," said Cliver.
The SCI, Borough officials and state environmental officials say the debris that was dumped at Jersey Recycling services was accepted without the proper environmental permits. The dirt hauled by truckers came from three sites, including the site of the Camden Community Charter School on Ninth Street in Camden when it was being build three years ago. Dirt also came from a site in New Brunswick. The SCI says the dirt from those two sites was contaminated.
"Soils that were contaminated with a known carcinogen," said Cliver.
The SCI also says hundreds of truckloads of dirt from the massive $400 million dollar I-95 expansion project in the Philadelphia area were taken to the Palmyra site. The I-95 project is being funded by state and federal taxpayer money.
"We spoke with the person purported to be the guy in charge of accepting and mulching and mixing. He told us he'd never handled construction debris before," Cliver explained.
The SCI and borough officials say when they alerted the N.J. Department of Environmental Protection to what was going on at the Jersey Recycling site in Palmyra, the DEP stepped in, issued a notice of violation. They told Sirkin TO make changes. That's when the SCI says Sirkin skipped town and went back to Boca Raton, Florida.
SCI investigators say Sirkin is a convicted racketeer, who spent time in federal prison. He has, they say, some ties to members of the New York and Philadelphia Mob.
"It's called organized crime for a reason frankly, 380,000 cubic yards illegally dumped on property within the borough," said Palmyra Business Administrator John Gural.
Investigators say Sirkin's father-in-law is a made guy with the Luchese Crime Family in North Jersey. He's also close friends with Philadelphia Mob Boss Joey Merlino. Merlino's federal parole was revoked in 2014 because he was seen associating with Sirkin and Philadelphia Mob Captain and convicted felon, John Ciancaglini, in Florida. Merlino was sent back to jail for three months.
As it turns out, Brad Sirkin was subpoenaed by the SCI to testify a few weeks back before the commission at a public hearing on the dumping in Palmyra. His lawyer sent the commission a letter stating that Sirkin would assert his Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself if he was called to testify. He did not appear. But he wasn't the only witness who refused to testify.
The SCI says Frank Gillette ran a similar operation to the one Sirkin set-up in Palmyra. Gillette, they say, sent hundreds of truck loads of construction debris to a beach at the Jersey Shore in Cliffwood Beach, Monmouth County.
"Old Bridge, New Jersey is looking at a $300,000 or so remediation project for Cliffwod Beach that's going to come directly out of the taxpayers pocket," said Cliver.
The SCI says Gillette also has a criminal record and like Sirkin has ties to organized crime.
"We know that he has connections to the same Bonnano crime family Capo who paid into Jersey Recycling Services," said Cliver.
SCI investigators also produced a check that was sent to Sirkin's Company, Jersey Recycling Services, back in 2013. The name of the company who sent it and the person who signed it have been blocked out by the SCI.
"Jersey Recycling received a $50,000 shareholder loan from a known Bonanno Capo," said Cliver.
The mayor and Palmyra officials now claim Sirkin and the property owner, Fillit Inc., have left them with a big mess and a potentially big price tag to cleanup the site. They have now filed suit against Fillit. A trial is scheduled for October.
Taxpayers in Palmyra tell FOX 29 they're concerned. They're hoping the cost for cleaning up all this mess doesn't hit them in the wallet.
We went to Fillit's listed address in Lumberton, NJ to ask some questions. All we found was some old construction equipment and two empty buildings. The gate was locked and the sign on the fence said 'No Trespassing.'
Sirkin's attorney says the SCI's information about Jersey Recycling and his clients ties to organized crime are "mere allegations, nothing more". A company who owns the site did not return our phone call.