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Hundreds of pounds of pasta were dumped in the New Jersey woods. Police are investigating.

“I can fix this ... just give me time to gather 3-400 cups of marinara sauce”

Hundreds of pounds of pasta were dumped in the woods in New Jersey's Old Bridge. A lot of the details remain un-aldente-fied. Still, it went viral on social media this week.
Hundreds of pounds of pasta were dumped in the woods in New Jersey's Old Bridge. A lot of the details remain un-aldente-fied. Still, it went viral on social media this week.Read moreReddit

Mountains of spaghetti and heaps of elbow noodles lined a creek in the woods in New Jersey’s Old Bridge Township. No one seems to know where it came from, but the photos have social media boiling.

“It was like the song, on top of spaghetiiiii, all covered with cheese,” Nina Jochnowitz recalled.

Jochnowitz, a community leader and advocate, posted photos of what she estimated to be hundreds of pounds of pasta dumped near a park to local Facebook groups.

An Old Bridge spokesperson told the Inquirer Thursday that the Department of Public Works “visited the site and did in fact find what appeared to be 15 wheel barrel loads of illegally dumped pasta along a creek in a residential neighborhood.”

Jochnowitz, who previously lost a race for city council but remains active on her “Nina Jochnowitz for Old Bridge” Facebook profile, pointed to the mystery pasta and other instances of garbage in the neighborhood as examples of neglect from the town’s current administration, citing the town’s lack of bulk garbage pickup.

Old Bridge is a small township in Middlesex County — considered part of the New York metropolitan region — with a population of about 66,000.

Her initial goal on Facebook was to raise awareness because of contamination concerns. But, unbeknownst to her, screenshots of Jochnowitz’s posts made their way to Reddit on Monday, and Twitter on Tuesday, turning a hyper-local town dispute about excessive waste and environmental neglect into a viral pun-riddled pasta mystery.

“We should send the perpetrators to the state penne tentiary,” one of the top comments on the New Jersey subreddit thread said. “I don’t know. If we do that, I’m alfredo what will happen to them,” another user replied.

Philadelphia resident Ali Allocco tweeted screenshots from the original pasta dump post, earning more than 50,000 views.

“I was like, wow. This is the most New Jersey thing ever,” Allocco told The Inquirer. “I need to tell the masses about this.”

One user replied to Allocco’s tweet: “I can fix this ... just give me time to gather 3-400 cups of marinara sauce”

Jochnowitz had no idea the posts had spread beyond her neighborhood.

“It went on Reddit?!” she asked this reporter. “I had no idea. Can you send me it?”

How did the pasta get there?

The pasta’s source has not been publicly revealed.

The mayor’s office and the councilmember for the area, John E. Murphy III, didn’t respond to requests for comment. A town spokesperson told the Inquirer that police are investigating the incident.

So how did the pasta get there? Who brought it? Why? It’s unknown.

Or, as Jochnowitz put it, “Mission Impastable.”But some pieces of the puzzle are beginning to come together.

On Friday, Jochnowitz told local reporters that a neighbor’s Ring security camera caught a man cleaning out expired pasta from his late mother’s house. Jochnowitz declined to name the man, citing privacy.

The local police department handling the investigation could not be reached for comment.

“Police will decide when they will close investigation,” a town spokesperson said Friday.

Was the pasta cooked or was it just wet?

An odd debate online over the pasta photos is whether the noodles were cooked. Some speculated that even though they looked cooked, it may have just been from exposure to rain.

But Jochnowitz said the pasta was indeed cooked.

“It looked like someone filled up a wheelbarrow of pasta and dumped it,” she said.

On Thursday, township spokesman Himanshu Shah said in an email that the pasta was uncooked.

“It looks like it was only there for a short time but moisture did start to soften some of the pasta,” he said.

Is the pasta still there?

Jochnowitz wrote that the town’s Public Works department cleaned up the mess shortly after her initial post about the dumped noodles. It’s unclear whether Public Works used a giant colander or ladle.

“Once the report was generated, two public works employees arrived to clean the area,” Shah said. They were able to load all of the pasta in under an hour and properly dispose of it. We would estimate several hundred pounds of uncooked pasta that was removed from the packaging and then dumped along the creek.”

Public Works Director Kasey Lenning did not respond to a request for comment. Jochnowitz praised Lenning and his team’s quick efforts.

“You might say, ‘Who cares about pasta?’ But pasta has a PH level that will impact the water stream,” Jochnowitz said. “That water stream is important to clean up because it feeds into the town’s water supply. ... It was one of the fastest cleanups I’ve ever seen here”

Jochnowitz said the pasta situation, while funny on its own, represents a bigger issue with local pollution.

“When it rains here, it smells like sewage,” she said. She said she leads cleanups, including one that pulled more than 300 tires from an estuary lake. “We got the county to take away about half. But a pile is still there that the township has done nothing to take away.”

Wednesday afternoon, a tire was visible near the creek where the pasta once was, along with some remnants of scattered elbow noodles.