Residents press again for soil samples at dump in Roxbury

ROXBURY TWP.—The state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is set to go out to bid for a contractor to cap the former Fenimore landfill, but members of a local environmental group still want the soil tested at the site first.

When the Township Council met on Tuesday, July 8, the former landfill on Mooney Mountain again dominated much of the night’s discussion.

In providing his regular update on the Fenimore matter, Township Manager Christopher Raths said that DEP officials on the site were set to meet with Roxbury’s fire and emergency response personnel this week to discuss safety protocols on the site.

Mayor Jim Rilee said the state is “very far along” in the process of capping the landfill, and said it’s important, with equipment and machinery on the site constantly, that the township’s emergency personnel are aware of what’s there, and that a plan is in place in the event of a fire or other emergency.

Some residents and some members of the Roxbury Environmental Action Coalition (R.E.A.C.T.), immediately questioned the need for such meetings, and also stressed their desires to have the township attempt again to go to court to force the DEP to provide soil samples.

“I have brought up fire safety previously,” resident Bob Mederos said.

“How can you prepare a plan if you don’t know what is in the ground up there?” he asked.

Rilee said that the DEP has imported new equipment to the site, and said the fire department wants to be kept abreast of such changes.

“The fire department really hasn’t been up there in a year,” he said.

Raths agreed.

“They have new generators on the site. They have new fencing. It’s a good idea to get those folks up there so they can see what’s new and what’s going on,” he said. In the event of an emergency on the site, Raths said the township’s police and emergency personnel would likely be first responders.

Raths also reported that the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) has been on the site, and is continuing its health risk assessment that the site poses. Based on the low numbers of hydrogen sulfide present currently, however, he said the agency is not recommending the installation of anymore air quality monitors.

“Based upon the numbers we are registering on the monitors which are in place right now, they are not suggesting more,” he said.

Raths said the DEP has met on the site with the ATSDR, and said Roxbury Health Officer Mark Caputo was also present.

Other residents said the DEP should be providing its own emergency response personnel on the site.

Raths said, however, that the township’s firefighters and emergency response personnel are very well trained, and said Roxbury has one of the best emergency management systems in the county.

Resident Kathy Hart advised the Township Council to return to court to fight for soil samples.

“They (the DEP) are fighting us over even getting soil samples. We should fight again to appeal the court decision on core samples,” she said.

Councilman Fred Hall said the township made an attempt, in court, to gain the samples.

“We lost. We saw an opportunity. We went after it when they were digging nine new wells, but the judge said taking the soil samples would have impeded their progress. I disagreed with that, but that was what the judge said,” Hall said.

Ledgewood resident Susan Rodriguez asked whether or not any of the council members have suffered any ill-effects because of the hydrogen sulfide smell.

“If you or any members of your families had health problems, you’d be up at bat with us here. We are suffering,” she said.

Rilee said that there are members of the council who have been impacted by the dump.

Rodriguez said, however, that she’d like to see the council doing more.

“We are fighting for our lives. I am fighting for my grandson and for my husband. Raise my taxes. I don’t care. And use the money to go back to court and get those soil samples,” she said.

“We sit around all day long obsessing about this. I live in Ledgewood. That’s ground zero. We worry about our water, and our soil and our air. Take the money and go back to court and get this stuff tested to give us peace of mind,” she said.

Resident Millie Polito questioned the impact the Fenimore dump is having on home values throughout the township.

“I haven’t seen one house sold in Roxbury, and I look every Sunday,” she said.

“I would like to find out how many people are even looking at houses in Roxbury. It’s probably zero. I thought I had a palace. I now have a piece of (expletive deleted) that I can’t even sell,” she said.

“Go to the governor and demand samples,” she said. “If there’s nothing to hide, then we don’t have a problem,” she said.

Patty Ianko of Succasunna echoed Polito.

“I’ve seen homes in my neighborhood not sell at all. The realtors don’t know what’s going on, but homes here aren’t selling,” she said.

“You want to beautify this community, but yet you don’t care about the air, the water and the soil,” she told the council.

“We still don’t know what is up there. The odor has been better, but do we really know what’s in the soil, the water and the air,” she asked.

Rilee said that with the state preparing to seek bids to cap the landfill, the council still backs the capping option.

He said, however, that the township would still like to see soil samples.

“The state says that capping the landfill is a done deal. Our professionals that we hired say it should be capped as well,” he said.

Township Attorney James Bryce, filling in for Anthony Bucco, said the township has filed injunctions, multiple times, regarding the Fenimore project.

“We filed one against Strategic Environmental Partners (SEP) about truck routes and traffic right in the beginning, before the smell,” he said.

“We (the township) just don’t have the jurisdiction. The DEP controls solid waste management exclusively in the state. We filed for the core samples. The judge said sorry. The DEP said no. They (the DEP) have exclusive jurisdiction,” he said.

“I’m frustrated for you and for this council,” Bryce said.

“You have to get down to Trenton and get on the DEP. We just don’t have the authority. But, this council is constantly trying to do something,” he said.

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