Dump remediation debate continues in Roxbury; Pompton Lakes residents join effort

ROXBURY TWP. – The old saying goes that you just can’t fight city hall.

Concerned that both state officials and locally hired consultants just don’t have it right, however, more than 50 Mooney Mountain residents continue to oppose plans to cap the former Fenimore landfill on Mooney Mountain.

About 50 attended the Roxbury Township Council meeting on Tuesday, May 13.

The two-plus hour discussion began with Township Manager Christopher Raths giving his now-traditional update on what has transpired at the site for the past two weeks.

The state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is readying the site for its capping plan, which includes, essentially, covering the 18 affected acres with a large, plastic lining, and then piling clean fill on top of it.

Many angry residents, however, want the gypsum, wallboard and other materials which have been dumped there for two years, trucked out. They continue to bring the fight to the Township Council each time the council meets, as the majority of the council have backed the DEP’s plan to cap the site.

“I was on site yesterday,” Raths said at the meeting. “They (the DEP) have put up a center connection piece for piping, and that took the oxidizer and the scrubber down for two hours,” he said, referring to the equipment being used at the site to suck and burn off the noxious hydrogen sulfide gas.

Raths also said that the township has discussed a much-requested health survey with environmental experts from Rutgers University. “What we are looking at is surveying everyone within a mile of the landfill on health conditions,” he said.

In addition, Raths said he expects that the Agency For Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) will be on site within the next two or three weeks. The agency has agreed to study the landfill, and report back on whether or not health hazards are present.

“We have provided them with a lot of data, including the air quality monitoring information we have collected, and they are reviewing it now,” he said.

Mayor Jim Rilee meanwhile said that he has spoken recently to DEP Commissioner Robert Martin.

“We discussed reimbursement for the bills the township has acquired because of the Fenimore matter, and I think we have worked that out,” he said.

“I also mentioned the concerns of the council and of members of the public that the governor has made regarding Fenimore. He asked me specifically what those comments were. I told him. I pointed out a few items that were incorrect, and he said he will address it to make sure those issues are corrected,” he said.

Specifically, Gov. Chris Christie has said at town hall meetings that the landfill has been a problem for the township for decades. It had been dormant since 1979, however, until three years ago.

Rilee said that the DEP is preparing to go out to bid for a contractor to undertake the capping process at the site.

Resident Dan Massi told the council, however, that research he has done indicates that many of the premises the DEP is using to chose the capping option are flawed.

“There is an agenda here that needs to be investigated. Their remediation plan is flawed. The hydrogen sulfide model they are using, for example, is thousands of times off. If you are going to remediate the site, you need to know what is in there. If you don’t know, you can’t properly remediate it,” he said.

“Do any of you have a doubt or a disagreement with my report?” he asked.

“They have no data as to the sulfer content of the landfill. They have no data on the amount of sulfer production,” he said.

Councilman Richard Zoschak said he would like to see the DEP review the report and react to it.

Resident Robert Mederos again told the council that the expert the township hired, Robert Zelley, failed to mention the four streams he says run through the l andfill.

“The scrubber is poorly designed. That needs to be looked at. And I disagree with the state’s claim that it would cost $48 million to truck the stuff out. It would cost $12 million. There is water in there. That is going to continually keep the sheetrock wet, and that means the hydrogen sulfide smell will continue, “ he said.

“There are four streams running under that landfill. What are you going to do about them?” he asked.

In response, Rilee said the townships’ consultants say there is no evidence the streams are there any longer.

Raths agreed.

“There were streams, going back many years. They were diverted off the property years ago,” he said.

He also said that the Morris County Soil Conservation District will be examining those types of issues.

“I know they are planning a special hearing in the next few weeks on this,” he said.

Mederos continued.

“Trucking it out is not going to cost $40 million. $12 million is more accurate. That is more economically feasible than maintaining this landfill for the next 30 years. What are you going to do about this? They (the DEP) don’t know what they are doing,” he said.

He also disputed the claims that it will take five years to remove the material. “It can be one in 13 months. They are estimating 16 trucks a day to remove it. When that stuff was brought in here, it was 50 to 75 trucks per day. You can get four bucket loaders, and you can get it all out of there in 13 months,” he said.

Zoschak and Rilee said that the township does not have any jurisdiction over the DEP.

“We can’t tell the DEP what to do. We don’t have jurisdiction over them,” Zoschak said.

Rilee agreed, saying that the state has already decided and finalized capping plans.

“We can sit here and talk about trucking it out all day. That is not what they are going to do. And, we were not given access to the soil samples,” he said.

Resident Bill Morocco said that long-term maintenance costs are not being considered.

He also said that Commissioner Martin has told state senators that the ultimate plan is to construct a park on top of the landfill, post capping.

“He has been telling state senators that they (the DEP) are bettering our community. They have an agenda, and they don’t want anybody sticking their noses in their business. With a plastic liner, you can’t put a park on top. It’s prohibitive,” he said.

Morocco again asked the council why they agreed to back the DEP’s capping plan.

Rilee said it was not the DEP’s recommendation, but the recommendation of the engineers Roxbury hired that the council agreed with.

“Our professionals have spelled out that the capping process is the best way to go. We agreed that this is the best option based on the advice of our own professionals,” he said.

“And, trucking it out has not been tried in such a large format as this,” he sid.

Morocco also said that plans should not proceed until the sulfate content is determined.

“I don’t see any evidence that trucking it out won’t be successful. I don’t see any models. I hear opinions, but we need to know the amount of sulfate, and no one knows that,” he said.

Township attorney Anthony Bucco said that capping, however, is the method for dealing with landfills all across the nation.

“No scientist has ever recommended digging it out. None. And even if it was dug out, it would still have to be capped,” he said.

Pompton Lakes

Pompton Lakes resident Kathy Hart said she was in Roxbury to support the residents, and said she faced similar problems in her town.

In that case, she said, water resources were contaminated by a chemical company. “Residents started getting sick in the neighborhoods. Don’t let that happen here. Capping this thing won’t work. It’s just postponing it. I have zero trust in the DEP. Our wells were poisoned with contaminants, and the similarity between Pompton Lakes and Roxbury are disturbing,” she said.

“The DEP caused this and now refuses to do the right thing and clean it up and get it out of here,” she said.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), E.I. DuPont De Nemours & Company manufactured explosives on this 570-acre site at the north end of Pompton Lakes from 1902-1994. Land use in the vicinity is primarily residential and commercial, but also includes undeveloped areas, an interstate highway (Route 287) and state-owned forest. Cleanup of the facility is required under a DEP order.

Waste management practices during the facility’s operation resulted in contamination of surface water, soil and sediment, and ground water both on and off site. Wastes disposed of on site included lead salts, mercury compounds, explosive powders, chlorinated solvents, waste wire drawing solution and detonated blasting caps. Primary contaminants in the soil and sediments are lead and mercury. Ground water contaminants include volatile organic compounds which are potentially harmful contaminants that can cause vapor intrusion to indoor air. Lead and mercury releases have migrated off site resulting in soil contamination at 140 homes near Acid Brook, which were remediated. Contaminated ground water also migrated off site with the potential for vapor intrusion from contaminated ground water impacting off-site residences.

Remedial actions at the site are focused on investigating and cleaning up the area. Much of the soil contamination has been removed and a ground water pump and treat system has been installed. Ground water monitoring is continuing at the site and in the interim DuPont will be installing vapor mitigation systems at residences within the ground water plume and further assess ground water plume/vapor intrusion delineation.

By MIKE CONDON Editor | Posted Yesterday

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