Roxbury to court: Don’t give dump back to owner

The township wants to make one thing perfectly clear: It does not want the former Fenimore landfill, now controlled by the state, back in the hands of its owner.

At the Township Council’s Tuesday, June 9 meeting, Township Attorney Anthony Bucco informed the public that he filed a motion in court to intervene in the case in which Strategic Environmental Partners (SEP), which owns the landfill site on Mooney Mountain, has sued the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to regain control of the land.

“Right now, we are not involved in that case. There are two parties in litigation. I am asking the court for permission to join so that we can submit legal briefs urging the court to keep the landfill out of SEP’s hands,” Bucco said.

Two summers ago, the DEP seized the landfill from SEP, in effort to immediately begin to rectify the strong, nauseating odor of hydrogen sulfide which was emanating from the landfill.

The dumping of wet wallboard from homes destroyed down the shore by Hurricane Sandy were the suspected cause of the odor.

The state began remediation on the site, which included the installation of oxidizers to suck the hydrogen sulfide gas from the ground and burn it off.

The operation is ongoing, but the landfill has now been capped with fresh fill.

Bucco explained that SEP, in the meantime, however, has filed a lawsuit to regain control of the property.

Councilman Robert DeFillippo said that the entire council supports this motion.

“SEP should never, ever run that landfill again, ever,” he said.

“That is the stated position of this council,” he said.

Several residents also stated the need for ongoing groundwater testing near and around the landfill site. Township Manager Christopher Rath said the township continues to offer free well water testing to any resident who requests it.

Less Trash?

Meanwhile, Roxbury teen Alex Morales said he might have an idea to help with the landfill and other environmental problems like it in the future.

He said the whole initial problem with the landfill- and landfills, in general- began with excessive waste generation.

“New Jersey ships most of its waste to Pennsylvania. I’d like to see us, here in Roxbury, reduce our waste stream and set an example for others,” he told the council.

“If we can set an example, no one else will have to deal with all of the garbage we deal with today,” Morales said.

His proposal?

Reduce the use of plastic bags by having area retailers place a small surcharge on them.

“It has been tried in other places, and their use drops dramatically. It’s an unpopular thing, but I would like to see us start a campaign, and we can use Fenimore as a foundation for that campaign,” he said.

Instead, he proposes the use of reusable bags, which most area supermarkets do offer, as an alternative.

Legislation Needed

Mayor Jim Rilee said he read the proposal but said that a municipality would need enabling legislation from the state to create such a surcharge.

“I like the concept, but it would need legislation supported by the Assembly and the Senate,” he said.

Councilman Martin Schmidt said that area ShopRite stores already have paper bags and cloth bags to avoid the use of plastic.

Morales said it has been tried in Hawaii and California, where “bans” are being considered.

“But, you have to get people used to it,” he said.

Rilee said the matter can be discussed with the owners of the local ShopRite stores and said it might also be a topic worth pursuing with the township’s Environmental Commission.

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