EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ - In wake of complaints about strange odors coming from the Edgeboro Landfill, a town meeting was held by the Middlesex County Utilities Authority on January 16 at the East Brunswick Municipal Building. Described as a “community forum” by the organization, the meeting was meant to serve as a place where concerned citizens could air their grievances and be met with responses from landfill management. The presentation was led by Joseph Cryan, the Executive Director of the MCUA.
Cryan explained that landfill workers are doing the best they can to try and stop the stench, making efforts such as covering all exposed trash every day before leaving work. However, the intensity of the smell does not come from the trash, but from two other factors. One of these is Metolife, a kind of biosolid sludge that is used in the cover for garbage. Biosolid is the solid material left behind after conventional wastewater treatment processes. Because the substance is meant to be biodegradable, this along with other biosolids produced from the degradation of garbage can sometimes produce strange smells. The main cause of the smell, though, is gas emissions coming from the landfill. Recent work on the landfill has involved digging holes for the landfill’s gas-based clean energy system, which is releasing hydrogen sulfide emissions. Said Cryan, “These holes helped create gas emissions, which created the reason we’re all here tonight.”
As hydrogen sulfide contains sulfur, which smells like rotten eggs, these emissions are the most likely cause for the smell. These emissions have been further amplified by 2018's being one of the wettest years on record, and flooding of the landfill’s gas extraction lines has contributed to the smell getting worse. However, according to an air sampling test performed in December 2018, the landfill is operating at five parts per billion of hydrogen sulfide - well below the estimated limit of thirty parts per billion.
Despite Cryan’s reassurances, there were still a large number of complaints from the community during the meeting. Cryan stated during his presentation that the landfill had only received two complaints in the last week, a statement that was almost immediately rebuked during the audience Q&A. Many townsfolk from both in and around East Brunswick shared how the stench affected them - a few women even noted that they could not sleep because they would wake up gagging from the smell. The issue is affecting local business, real estate, and even children, as a letter about the smell from a local child was read at the meeting. Concerned citizens also claimed that the facts that Cryan presented did not add up with the experience that they were having.
Still, work is being done to improve the issue. Significant improvements to the gas collection systems at the landfill were completed in December, and a High Capacity Water Pumping System will be installed in Spring 2019 in order to combat pipe flooding. A cap will also be installed over most of the area in order to block out the odors.
The MCUA is planning to host a landfill tour on May 11th, 2019 in order to ease people’s worries and get them more acquainted with the landfill. Additionally, they are planning another forum to take place in the Municipal Courtroom in June 2019 so that the community will continue to have input on the issue.
A full transcript of the MCUA presentation as well as several videos shown during the meeting are available at http://www.mcua.com/communityupdate/.