On Thursday, October 7, 2021 the Legislative District 11 Office hosted a Q&A session to discuss the concerns residents have regarding the Nylabone Factory. Mayor Wardell, Neptune City Town Council, and the NJ Department of Environmental Protection joined our webinar to discuss the issues pertaining to Nylabone.
We share the concerns of the residents & hosted this webinar in an effort to get these issues addressed at various levels and learn more about how to resolve certain problems.
We have submitted the questions we asked at this webinar to Nylabone for their review, and we will continue to update this page with the most up to date information.
If you have any further questions, you can contact our office by email at Help@njld11.com or call us at 732-695-3371.
Here are some resources that could help.
DEP 24 Hour Hotline Number: 1-877-927-6337
DEP Website: https://www.nj.gov/dep/
DEP Odor Fact Sheet: https://www.nj.gov/dep/enforcement/docs/odor.pdf
Monmouth County Health Department: 732-431-7456
MC Health Department Website: https://www.visitmonmouth.com/Page.aspx?Id=1932
Neptune City: 732-776-7224
Neptune City Website: https://www.neptunecitynj.com/
1. [5:42] Can anyone from the town provide insight on the land-use history regarding Nylabone?
[7:13] Mayor Wardell: I don’t have an exact date of when that took place. I do know that the last I remember of them doing bookbinding was early 2000s, 2001, that is when they had kind of been phasing out, as far as the 1980s, and they started doing both. As Nylabone began to grow, they began phasing out the Tropical Fishing and Hunting magazine that they put out, but I don’t have a specific date of when they stopped doing the bookbinding altogether so I couldn’t really answer that accurately.
[8:03] Council President Calhoun: No, I have nothing to add.
[8:19] Mayor Wardell: The question would probably be best answered by the Land Use Board themselves, so I’ll reach out to the Land Use Board secretary and see if they can give me a finite date. But then again, I’m not sure if they submitted to the town that ‘we’re doing this, we’re not doing this’ because it never really changed under their nonconforming use whether they were doing bookbinding or making Nylabone products. At no point did they have to say ‘this is what we’re doing’ so I might not be able to give you a specific date but I will try.
2. [9:12] Is the current site for Nylabone zoned for manufacturing?
[9:17] Mayor Wardell: Well, yes and no. If you look at the zoning as it falls under the words ‘commercial’ and ‘industrial’, it may not say ‘manufacturing’ but in the mid-80s, Nylabone, and even the company before that property was purchased, was given special non-conforming use in order to manufacture. I believe that was in spring of 1986 when that took place here. I believe it was also in 1986 when the 69,000-plus square foot unit will now be used for storage and manufacturing of Nylabone products.
3. [9:58] Did Nylabone receive approval from the Land Use Board?
[10:05] Mayor Wardell: It wasn’t called the Land Use Board, it was called the Zoning Land Adjustment Board I believe, and according to the documents that I have, they were given a non-comforming use in 1986.
4. [10:31] How will you work with the Neptune City Homeowners Association?
[10:42] Mayor Wardell: We work with any residents that have any concerns here. When it comes to the Homeowners Association, in 2019, my last year serving on Council - these concerns were brought forth - this is not new - since I’ve been serving on Council these concerns have been brought to me numerous times and some more common than others. In 2019, out then attorney, Greg Cannon, I’m sure many of you are familiar with Mr. Cannon, he’s also a councilman in Aberdeen, and to his credit he did one of the more thorough investigations as to what the town can do from a legal standpoint. He spoke with TFH officials, their attorneys, met with members of the state, and his finding was the municipality has done everything it can do within the confines of the law.
He suggested to the residents they may have more latitude/ ability to do more things that the town can’t do due to the confines of the law. And to their credit they formed the Homeowners Association. It was formed to be a private organization that would go and do things the governing body wouldn’t do. It’s not that Neptune City won’t work with the Homeowners Association. There are things that we can, and there are things we can’t do. There are things they may want us to do that we just simply can’t - and that’s how I’m being advised by my attorney to not do. My time in the governing body we’ve had 4 different borough attorneys and they’ve all said the same thing. Here’s what you can, and here’s what you can’t do.
So by all means if it’s something we can do, we would never say no to our residents. None of our residents would ever be denied help. That’s one of the main reasons I think we got into government, to help people, so Homeowners Association is a private organization - it's not a town recognized org. it doesn’t fall into the umbrella of the borough and so therefore they are treated as the same as any other private citizen who comes with any other questions or concerns.
We try to do the best we can to answer any questions and I’m glad we’re doing this today so they can ask questions to the DEP, DOH, and legislators to see if there is anything that can be done at a higher level.
According to every attorney that we’ve had, we have exhausted all of our resources, and I think that’s where the root of our frustration comes from.
[13:43] Council President Calhoun: I have listened to the residents' concerns. I will continue to do so and I welcome the opportunity. I reiterate everything the mayor said.
5. [13:45] Does the Nylabone business and other local operations conform to local ordinances such as noise and smell?
Mayor Wardell: Everyone in town must conform to the municipal law. We do not have an odor ordinance. I know residents in town have referred to a 1951 odor ordinance - it isn’t really an ordinance it is more of a guideline. No ordinance was ever adopted here in Neptune City, we prefer to use County DOH who is an arm of DEP that would handle this. We do not have an ordinance so we can’t enforce an ordinance that is not on the books.
As far as noise, absolutely, if it is a violation. We have certain hours - different hours on the weekend than we do during the week - and if anyone is above the decibel level between any time of those hours then of course.
However, if it is not reported, then there really isn’t anything we can do about it. I’ve seen numerous times people make complaints on social media, but unfortunately that can’t be dealt with. I encourage my residents to call the police.
They feel they don’t want to annoy or be a nuisance to the police, and I can 100% appreciate that and can understand, but the police have said numerous times at our meetings, they don’t get annoyed at the calls and to please reach out because that’s their job.
If the noise ordinance is being violated and it is reported, then by all means it will be enforced.
[15:34] MODERATOR Can you please go over how to file a report?
Mayor Wardell: The first step to filing a report is calling the police - especially if it is a noise ordinance.
6. [16:24] MODERATOR Can these ordinances be updated or revised?
[16:36] Council President Calhoun: On my part, I think we should take a look at all ordinances. There are a number that are out of date, or don’t exist and we should definitely take a look at all of them.
[16:50] Mayor Wardell: Yes if any resident has a concern about an ordinance whether it be amended or added to the books, you can, and in fact I believe it is your civic responsibility to ask to have those ordinances reviewed.
If a request to have an ordinance reviewed is put in, it is our responsibility to review - we have a law and ordinance committee.
That is not the responsibility of the mayor - that would fall on our council to do so, and that decision is ultimately under the 6 members of the council.
I have talked to them recently. I don’t think anyone has done a thorough cleaning for lack of a better word of our ordinances, and there are some that could use some updates.
This will fall under the Council to do so, but I am available for council and advice should they ask.
7. [18:08] Has the town inquired as to what materials are being used by Nylabone to determine the safety of the odor being caused?
Mayor Wardell: We have no cause to. Agencies that do inspections on business like agencies - happen at state and federal level. As far as I’m aware there haven’t been any violations in terms of dangerous chemicals or anything dangerous to the environment. If we don’t have any cause to be concerned or there are no red flags being raised by those agencies, I don’t think it would be responsible for us to demand something that DOH or DEP don’t seem to be concerned about.
8. [18:56] A question to DEP: The residents would like to be made aware what fumes are coming from the factory - can you please inform the public how you define these odors as “safe/non-toxic” and how are the safety levels monitored?
[19:24] DEP: The DEP looks into a matter when a resident complains to our 24-hour toll free hotline at 1-877-927-6337
A resident must lodge a complaint in order to start the investigation process.
The DEP does do proactive odor investigations, but to look at a specific property, we must first have a complaint to understand the severity, the frequency and the duration of the odor at that property, and how many individuals are impacted by the odor.
9. [22:09] Assemblyman Eric Houghtaling: We talked to residents, and they said that the town says they’ve spent a lot of money to try and get rid of the odor, but the odor is still there. Any comments?
[22:33] Mayor Wardell: One thing is our mediation attempts have never said they will 100% be able to get rid of the odor. They have made attempts to try to limit the odor, sometimes it's stronger than other days. One problem - because it isn’t persistent - - it tends to dissipate rather quickly so it is very difficult to gage when it happens. When they make the call the odor is quite pungent. By the time someone is able to get out and investigate, the odor may have dissipated or not be as strong as the immediate call, and unfortunately the people who have the authority to give a fine or have a summons can’t do it based on the problem if it isn’t as strong when the initial call was made.
I tell my residents, I have no doubt - we know and we believe you that the smell is there, and that is where this frustration comes from. It is almost like a blessing and a curse. It’s good the smell isn’t persistently pungent, but it is difficult to get accurate measurements. I know they have not stopped trying to mitigate and they are hoping to make it even better.
10 years ago it was far more pungent than it is today - it used to be quite offensive - not that it can’t be at times, but it’s not what it used to be. It is still not at an acceptable level, but at least they are trying to work on it.
I really wish TFH could have been on today. I know they wanted to be on this meeting and the date didn’t work out for them, and if we can find a date that does work for all of us in the future it would be great. I know without TFH being on this call we’re just getting a lot of suggestions and ideas without getting the answer from the source itself. So I’m hopeful these questions can get submitted to them and they can [give us an answer that’s satisfactory with everyone but honestly without them I'm not sure we’ll be able to get to an answer without their participation.
[25:17] Council President Calhoun: I think we should aim for a quarterly meeting with these folks until there’s resolution. I always found it difficult to believe we’re dependent on a guy to come down and do a smell test and I can’t believe there isn’t some type of electric means to measure this. I want to ask the DEP or DOH, is there something that exists that can measure a nuisance rather than a potentially toxic smell, and differentiate between the two - does something like that exist?
[25:55] DEP: The department has emission limits, if that’s what you’re referring to? The emission limits for this particular facility when we talk about odor, the DEP does not use any type of electronic device. We look at the character, we have training and those inspectors are certified in odor investigations which is why I go back to frequency, duration, and impact in making those determinations.
[26:44] Chris Merkel Monmouth County Liaison: We are as everyone knows the DEP agency for Monmouth County, we do not use electronic device when we do an investigation when it comes to any odor complaint in the county. There is a methodical way we conduct our investigation and all of these investigators are trained through Rutgers University through a specific odor class. Intensity, duration, and there is a way through part of the investigation is smelling the odor and coordinating with the complainant and using that information to determine if there is a violation at the time of the investigation.
10. [28:19] There were AIR PERMITS issued in 2011 and expired in 2016. They were re -approved and an additional 20 pieces of equipment were approved. Where was the local “EXPANSION OF USE “ zoning application to match this?
[28:48] DEP: So when we talk about land use zoning, the DEP is not able to answer those particular local questions, however we do have permits that go back 20 years on this particular site. Whether or not they were operating, they were approved to be operating. They currently have an approved general permit which was approved in December of 2020 and does not expire until 2023, which means the air operation has been evaluated for particular permitting limits and currently in compliance with that general permit.
11. [30:01] Has the town considered creating an environmental commission or establishing a process to ensure that the impact on the environment will be taken into consideration for future projects?
Mayor Wardell: Absolutely no reason why we cannot create an environmental commission. I have no objections to that.
Council President Calhoun: It is my understanding that an environmental commission would be a member of the general public, so before we got down the road too far, I would be in favor of ensuring the members of the public are able to speak on behalf of environmentally friendly projects.
12. [32:16] Are there any harmful effects to people, especially children and elderly from the chemicals/odor that is being emitted?
[DEP]: The Department’s emissions limits are protective of human health and the environment and NJDEP inspects our facilities to make sure that they are in compliance. The Nylabone facility was inspected and is compliant.
The DEP does not quantify health impacts.
13. [34:44] Who is assessing to make sure that the chemicals in the air are not harmful to anyone?
[Chris Merkel Monmouth County Liaison]: The local county health department does not assess what is happening in the facility itself. Their main role is to enforce the NJDEP environmental regulations and respond in a timely manner to voter complaints. It would have to be an agency that permits that facility and knows what chemicals are used in that facility.
14. [36:13] How do we give confidence to the residents of Neptune City that they are not breathing in anything harmful?
[Chris Merkel Monmouth County Liaison]: It would have to be an agency that permits that facility and knows what chemicals are within that facility. My group does not know that.
[Michael Fitzgerald]: I will reach out to find out if there are federal agencies that may have input into what products are going into the facility if anything is coming out of the facility that are directly affecting the residents. As far as we know this facility works on making edible toys for animals and that is their focus but we can follow up as this is a legitimate question on what is going into the factory.
[Senator Gopal]: Thank you for checking on this, and I know everyone on this call is working very hard, but this is certainly one of the most concerning points that none of the agencies on here know for a fact on the health piece. We will reconnect with everyone as fast as possible to see what is in the air as that lack of clarity is concerning all the way around.
I would love to work together to see what state agency we can include to try to give the residents more clarity.
[Michael Fitzgerald]: Yes from the county’s perspective I’m more than happy to do that. I can also check to see which federal agencies can assist with this as well.
15. [39:21] How can people file complaints to the DEP? Has the DEP looked into any complaints and what are their findings?
[DEP]: They can call the DEP Hotline. Also can read the DEP’s Odor Fact Sheet (located below), which can answer some common questions regarding inspections. All of the data and records regarding the property are available in accordance with the Public Records Act.
The Department works with the Monmouth County Department to make sure that action is taken with regards to odors. A complaint goes through the DEP hotline, the Department triages those calls, and sometimes the individual is contacted, other times agents of the DEP are called to conduct an investigation. The goal is to investigate a complaint within an hour. If not, they should reach out to the office, Michael Fitzgerald, or the Environmental Health Coordinator.
16. [41:18] Why is Nylabone allowed to manufacture products using plastics and store plastics now?
Mayor Wardell: Not aware if Nylabone is manufacturing plastics.
DEP: Manufacturing of plastics is not what we have as their operating permit.
This is a follow up question for Nylabone specifically.
17. [42:29] What steps will you take moving forward while working with the town to help resolve the issues that residents have?
Chris Merkel Monmouth County Liaison: From the Board of Health perspective, we take all complaints and concerns very seriously. We have spoken to a number of residents regarding their concerns. We continue to work with the town, mayor and council in regard to these concerns surrounding Nylabone. They should call the hotline because it is a good gauge of the specific concerns.
DEP: Citizens should call the DEP hotline and let them know what is going on. When we don’t hear anything, we believe everything is okay - so in order for us to know there are issues - we need phone calls. This way the Department and Monmouth County health department have a record of calls, and what times these calls are coming in. This is the best way to have a log of concerns and the specific information we are getting.
18. [51:30] How long does it take the DEP to send over a complaint to the Monmouth County Department of Health?
Chris Merkel Monmouth County Liaison: We have a 24 hour duty officer. MC responds to complaints as quickly as possible. It certainly does not take days to get out there. The process is: complaint goes to DEP hotline, department triage those calls - sometimes they contact the individual, sometimes they contact MC to do an onsite investigation. Again we are agents of the DEP so we work with that, and under our contractual obligation with the DEP. Sometimes they will call the indv. And walk them through the complaint/concern. If it is forwarded to us, we get out there in a timely manner. The on call individual gets on the site as quickly as possible. Sometimes they don’t get out as quickly as residents would like, but we get out there as quickly as we can.
Our goal is to get out and investigate a complaint within the hour - from the time MC is notified.
If the DEP says to go out and do an investigation, then we get out within the hour.
If this is not happening, they can contact the Monmouth County office (732-431-7456) and ask for me. Or they can ask for my Environmental Health Coordinator who helps with these complaints - Alan.
[51:01] Senator Gopal: Thank you Chris, and just to let you and the residents know, I am messaging with the Governor’s office now to see if we can get a municipal health impact study going.
19. [51:34] For DEP, how long does it take you to get the complaint over to Monmouth County Health once you get it?
DEP: Basically a complaint comes in from dispatch notification. We rely on MC Health because they are closer to the situation than we are as we are about an hour away. We conduct an investigation for every single phone call that comes in. We respond within 15 minutes from Trenton Dispatch.
Every odor does not necessarily resolve in a violation. Some odors waffle in and out, and I want everyone to understand that an odor in and of itself is not necessarily a violation. That’s why we need the residents to call in, give us time to get an inspector out there, and as the Mayor indicated, sometimes the odor is there, sometimes the odor isn’t. That means that it may not be an actionable odor - unfortunately that is the reality of this situation.
20. [53:12] What are some solutions that you have to this issue?
[Mayor Wardell]: I think all agencies have to work together. Most importantly Nylabone needs to be part of this discussion. I think most of our residents are going to walk away from today equally as frustrated as when they came in to this unfortunately, and I am as well. But I think we can keep this live communication open. If we get TFH/Nylabone part of this, which I know they want to, then this is the way we can get to any kind of reasonable solution. Everything on their end shows compliance but understanding this issue won’t go away, we can hopefully have them act on this public nuisance.
[Senator Gopal]: Thank you Mayor. And we are going to do this again. Nylabone did not have availability for the month of October, and because of the number of constituents reaching out, we had to get this done. But they are more than willing to do this after the month of October so we are going to work for a date in November/December to continue this conversation. We need to get DOH engaged here - the most alarming thing I’ve found here is the public health perspective and making sure we have confidence there is nothing in the air. I wish they were on here to get them engaged. Nylabone has been receptive - at least with me - and understand folks are concerned. This is going to be the first of many conversations. Assembly Members Houghtaling and Downey and I are committed to making sure that any state resources you need to help with this issue, we will do our part and more than anything if I had that odor next to me I’d be equally as frustrated as these folks listening in right now. Thank you all for making time in doing all of this today. I think we learned a lot here and there’s much more we need to do in the weeks and months ahead.
More Closing Statements found at [57:00].
Senator Vin Gopal and Assembly Members Houghtaling and Downey wrote letters to the Governor to request a municipal health impact study regarding the Nylabone Factory. You can review their letters here.
Questions that were not asked during the webinar have been issued to stakeholders for answers and will be posted on this website once received.
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