Beware of Dirty Dirt: "Free Clean Fill" May Contain Contaminants

Published on March 22, 2023

Stock pic of machinery and dirt
PSA Regarding Environmental Hazards Associated with Fill Dirt

Morris County Prosecutor Robert J. Carroll and the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office are dedicated to investigating and prosecuting those individuals and businesses that harm our environment and put the health of our residents at risk. This harm may not be imminent or immediate but can have a cumulative effect over long periods of time if not detected or remediated in a timely manner.

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) warns that sometimes “clean fill,” which can be sold or offered free of charge, may contain contaminants that should not be on residential property.  Sometimes, individuals or businesses will advertise “free fill” or “free clean dirt” on social media (such as Facebook Marketplace) or other online classified sites (such as Craigslist) even though the dirt or fill may contain contaminants or other regulated solid waste.  Such dirt or fill may contain other debris or materials generated from land clearing, excavation, or demolition activities that would otherwise be managed as solid waste. Individuals or businesses may do so to avoid the expense associated with properly registering, storing and/or disposing of such soil.

As a result of concerns related to the illegal dumping of soil and fill materials statewide, New Jersey’s “Dirty Dirt” legislation, codified at N.J.S.A. 13:1E-127.1, took effect on July 5, 2022.  The legislation specifically requires those individuals and businesses actively engaged in soil and fill recycling services to register with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. 

Those receiving soil or fill from a contractor or landscaper can request information on the origin of the material, as well as assurances such as analytical testing results, to demonstrate that it is not contaminated above established residential soil remediation standards. Residents are also encouraged to be mindful of situations where a pile of dirt or debris increases on a local property or where loaded dump trucks repeatedly visit secluded locations. 

Residents may report illegal dumping to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection at 1-877-WARN-DEP or the Morris County Division of Public Health Environmental Services at 973-631-5486. 

Additional information regarding the dangers of “dirty fill” may be found at

New Jersey law provides for a number of potential environmental crimes related to the unlawful creation, transportation, or disposal of regulated waste.  Anyone with any information regarding illegal dumping or other environmental crimes may also contact the Environmental Crimes Unit of the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office at 973-285-6200.  Callers may remain anonymous.

Media inquiries should be directed to Public Information Officer Meghan Knab at [email protected].