The defendant is charged with violating R.S. 23:5-28 in that on March 14, 1954 it allowed deleterious substances, namely, fuel oil, to run into and pollute fresh or tidal waters at Carlstadt, New Jersey, causing destruction to the wild life inhabiting the same.
At the trial in the Municipal Court of Carlstadt the defendant was found guilty of the charge. The defendant has taken an appeal.
Both parties have agreed to the salient facts. On March 14, 1954 the defendant had a watchman at its plant whose duty was to guard the plant. The watchman had an additional duty of transferring fuel oil by a gravity feed from a 30,000-gallon tank to a smaller tank holding 1,000 gallons.
His responsibility was to open the feed valve and shut it off when the 1,000-gallon tank was filled with fuel oil.
The watchman admittedly left the tank for five minutes, during which time the tank filled, the fuel oil overflowed and ran into a ditch, and from there into Berry's Creek, and did pollute the fresh and tidal waters with a deleterious substance causing death to wild life inhabiting the same.
The defendant is charged with violating R.S. 23:5-28 which statute provides that:
"No person shall allow any dyestuff, coal tar, sawdust, tanbark, lime, refuse from gas houses, oil tanks or vessels, vitriol or any of the compounds thereof, or other deleterious or poisonous substance to be turned into or allowed to run into any of the fresh or tidal waters within the jurisdiction of this State in quantities destructive of life or disturbing the habits of the fish or birds inhabiting the same, under a penalty of five hundred dollars ($500.00) for the first offense, and one thousand dollars ($1,000.00) for any subsequent offense."
The only question in dispute is whether the defendant did allow deleterious substances, i.e. , fuel oil, to be turned into or allowed to run into fresh or tidal waters in violation of the statute.
In resolving this question the State urges that the court construe the words of the statute liberally, and the defendant urges that the court construe the words strictly.
The Supreme Court enunciated in the case of State v. Meinken , 10 N.J. 348 (1952):
"* * * so as to promote the public policy of the State in conserving its natural resources and in protecting the safety of its people. In 3 Sutherland Statutory Construction (3 rd ed. 1943), § 7214, p. 445 it is stated: 'Of great public importance are laws providing for the conservation of natural resources and thus they are given a liberal construction. Statutes of ...