Government

Anti-Landfill Group Wants State Probe

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ROXBURY NJ – The New Jersey State Commission of Investigation (SCI) is being asked by area residents to probe the way the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) handled the former Fenimore Landfill matter. 
The requests are being made through an online form found at a Website created by the Roxbury Environmental Action Coalition (R.E.A.C.T.), a group that believes the DEP has “grossly mismanaged” the situation.
R.E.A.C.T. President Bob Schultz said about 40 people had sent the online requests for an SCI investigation as of Monday afternoon, but he expected many of the 700 people on the group’s email list are likely to join the campaign.
 
“R.E.A.C.T. is committed to protecting the health of Roxbury’s residents and their quality of life,” he said. “This project never should have happened. Many rules were broken. DEP mismanaged this thing from the beginning and they need to be investigated.”
After sitting dormant for about 30 years, the landfill on Mountain Road became the scene of new solid waste disposal in 2012. With the DEP’s blessing, site owner Strategic Environmental Partners trucked in material as part of a plan to install solar panels as a site-reclamation project. The material’s decomposition released hydrogen sulfide, a gas that smells like rotten eggs, and the smell spread for miles.
Interviewed yesterday, DEP Spokesman Bob Considine took an empathetic approach toward residents, but placed blame for the Fenimore mess on Strategic Environmental Partners. “The people of Roxbury were dealt a bad hand by a bad actor and they had to deal with some major inconveniences to their lives,” he said. “We recognize that. We recognize they probably are never going to be happy with us.”
Further, Considine pointed out that the environmental agency’s decision to seize the property in late June 2013 and cap the site has been a success. “We did step in to correct a problem last year,” he said. “Odors are way down. We haven’t had an exceedance (in airborne hydrogen sulfide levels) all year. Our goal is to stop the emission of gas and prevent future odors.”
However, R.E.A.C.T. insists the DEP has not been truthful about a number of matters and it believes the property was improperly allowed to accept waste from the Hurricane Sandy cleanup. The Web form asserts the agency needs to be probed by the SCI for a number of reasons, including:
  • Issuing fast-track project approvals without adequate project plans
  • Designating the site as a brownfield so it could qualify for a waiver from environmental testing
  • Allowing recycling centers “with known Mafia connections” to send “unknown and contaminated materials into the landfill”
  • Allowing the disposal of construction debris, with no environmental controls in place, despite knowing the material generates hydrogen sulfide
  • Permitting waste from Hurricane Sandy cleanup to be brought to the site and refusing to take samples of the material
  • Misleading government officials and the public about the long-term costs of capping the landfill
The SCI describes its mission as being an objective investigator to "maintain a constant vigil against the intrusion of organized crime into society" as well exposing "corruption and governmental laxity ... waste, fraud and abuse of taxpayers' dollars.
Schultz said the Fenimore situation is just the type of thing the SCI should study. "There is so much politics going on surrounding this landfill that we hope the SCI, one of the state's only independent organizations, will take this on and try to find out what really happened," he said.

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