Unfortunately, dumping is not uncommon in New Jersey. But the latest case brought a new twist: hundreds of pounds of pasta left in a local stream and the mystery of who did it and why.
Workers were found in Old Bridge Township 15 wheel-barrow loads of “pasta illegally dumped into a creek in a residential area,” Old Bridge business executive Himanshu Shah told NPR.
Pasta came in many forms, from spaghetti to macaroni – its mounds on the wooded banks of the Iresick Brook. Photos from the scene elicited a variety of reactions, from bits of pasta to confusion over who would do such a thing – and why?
But for residents like Nina Jochnowitz, the noodles’ inexplicable appearance was the last straw.
“At this point, I know who did it,” he told NPR. “But that’s not what this story is about.”
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For her, it’s not who spilled the pasta, but why. While people fixated on the “pasta-gate” aspect of the story, Jochnowitz said, “The story is really about the fact that at Old Bridge, we don’t have bulk garbage pickup. It’s been a point of contention the whole time. I’ve lived in this town for 23 years.
When Joknowitz, an environmentalist and former city council candidate, posted pictures of the spilled pasta on Facebook A week ago, it raised interest and questions. He estimated the pasta weighed 300 or 400 pounds.
“My initial reaction was yours,” Jochnowitz told NPR. “It was funny, funny, sad. It’s funny because it’s not garbage, it’s not garbage; it’s funny because you can make a lot of jokes. … And then I’m horrified, because of course it’s a potential contamination” of the stream and the river.
Was it cooked or raw?
There have been conflicting reports as to whether the pasta was cooked and spilled, or was softened and loosened by the rain. Shaw says the city believes “several hundred pounds of uncooked pasta” was taken from its packaging and dumped on the ground.
“It looks like it’s only been there for a while, but the moisture has started to soften some of the pasta,” he said.
Two workers from the city’s public works department were able to clear the area within an hour, Shaw said.
Joknowitz thanked the city’s Public Works Agency for its quick response to what he called “Mission Impassible.” As crews removed the pasta, they cleaned up all the debris that had been thrown into the basin.
But he urged township leaders to start providing public garbage services. The Government website Residents can contract with private garbage companies, he says, noting that “Old Bridge does not provide sanitation services for household solid waste or bulk.”
Those private companies charge hundreds of dollars to dispose of larger items like beds and mattresses, Joknowitz said, and the township has no trash.
“Some throw their garbage in far-flung areas of the city,” he said. “My neighborhood is a pretty remote neighborhood, so it’s a common place for littering.”
As for the other part of the mystery – who – Local media Quote a neighbor who believes the pasta came from a house that was recently cleared before coming to market. A man’s mother has died, leaving her son to scavenge pasta from her pantry, reports say.
The city says the police department is investigating who was responsible for the pasta dump.
Fernando Alfonso III contributed to this story.