Roxbury Council Meeting: Anger, Frustration, Raised Voices and Cops
Tuesday, March 10, 2015 at 11:51 PM
ROXBURY, NJ – Tempers flared, and police were called, at Tuesday’s meeting of the Roxbury Mayor and Council as residents expressed anger about the Fenimore Landfill issue.
During their turns addressing the council, residents Bob Mederos and Carl Panetta became agitated, raising their voices and engaging in oral skirmishes with some on the governing body. The men assert the town is not doing enough to protect people, and the environment, from air and water pollution they believe is coming from the landfill.
Although Panetta, several times, walked up and patted the angry Mederos on the back, urging him to calm down, it was Panetta’s similarly emotional turn at the microphone that prompted Roxbury Township Clerk Amy Rhead to shoot a text to Roxbury police, asking them to come to the meeting. Panetta – who attends most council meetings and grills town officials about Fenimore – said he recently moved his family to a house in Dover and found that their chronic health issues abated.
“I have no respect for any of your experts,” Panetta told the council, referring to Emilcott Associates, a Morristown company that installed air monitors in Roxbury that measure the levels of hydrogen sulfide. Hydrogen sulfide, (H2S), is a putrid gas being created by the decomposition of debris brought to the formerly closed dump in 2012. It is now trapped under a cover installed by the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and is being burned off with a massive oxider.
As Panetta’s voice continued to rise in volume, along with his level of anger, he was confronted by a man in the audience who accused him of disrespecting the council and hogging the microphone. Although an altercation seemed imminent, Mederos helped Panetta leave the council chamber at about the same time police arrived.
They both returned later in the meeting and Panetta made another, less emotional and more brief, trip to the microphone.
Roxbury Township Manager Christopher Raths told the audience that the DEP, on Tuesday, installed a new oxidizer at the Fenimore site. The new unit has about twice the gas-burning capacity, according to the DEP, which says the increased flow will more quickly remove the dampness in the debris and, therefore, “turn off” the bacteria creating the H2S. The state plans to improve other parts of the system this week, Raths said.
Roxbury Township Attorney Anthony Bucco said some Roxbury residents have been subpoenaed by the state Office of Administrative Law, compelling them to testify about the damage claims they filed against the former operator of Fenimore.
To concerns about the accuracy and reliability of the air monitors, voiced by Panetta, Mederos and Succasunna resident Laurel Whitney, Bucco insisted the monitors are “taking readings thousands of times in the course of minutes” and are working properly about 99 percent of the time.
Nevertheless, “Even with that type of success rate, the township has gotten hand-held meters,” the lawyer noted. When there are reported spikes, Emilcott workers take readings with the hand-helds. So far, there has been no proven and sustained release of H2S from Fenimore, said both Emilcott and town officials.
However, Roxbury Councilman Fred Hall urged his colleagues to step back a little from their insistence that all is well on Mooney Mountain, the site of the dump.
“The fact of the matter is we’re getting a lot of complaints about some smells up there,” Hall said. He asked Raths to set up a meeting with the DEP official in charge of the Fenimore project. “We do have to answer these people’s questions as to why it is still smelling when it’s capped,” Hall said.