ROXBURY, NJ – Roxbury deserves to be involved in an ongoing court case that could return control of the former Fenimore Landfill to the company that dumped odorous waste there, argues the township in legal papers .
In his “motion to intervene,” township attorney Anthony Bucco points out that Roxbury residents and officials have been dealing first-hand with the Fenimore mess for three years and have a direct interest in the outcome of the litigation. Currently, the township is not a part of the so-called “order to show cause” lawsuit.
In the Superior Court case, the state Department of Environmental Protection (DE) wants the owner of the property, Strategic Environmental Partners (SEP), held liable for costs the state incurred in shutting-down SEP’s operation at the site. However, SEP has been successful in challenging the way the DEP, in 2013, issued an emergency order and took control of the landfill. SEP stands an outside chance of regaining control of the property, a prospect that concerns Roxbury officials and prompted Bucco to file the intervention request.
SEP, in late 2011, began disposing construction debris at the formerly dormant old dump. It’s plan was to turn the land into a solar energy “farm,” but the waste began to emit clouds of noxious hydrogen sulfide. The rotten egg odor drifted over many populated areas of Roxbury in late 2012, a condition that lasted for about a year. The DEP eventually took control of the property and installed a capping system that traps the putrid gas and an oxidizer/scrubber system that burns it.
New Jersey’s top court has refused to overturn a lower court’s finding that the state illegally seized the site in 2013. The matter is scheduled to return to Superior Court this month, but Roxbury’s request for intervention could stall that, said Bucco in an interview.
In his motion arguing to be made a party to the action, Bucco laid out a history of the Fenimore situation, asserting Roxbury has been the main victim of the boondoggle. He pointed out that, while “judges and experts opined for months on potential responsibility and solutions, there was absolutely no abatement of the nuisance. Township officials were the ones inundated with angry residents justifiably demanding a solution.”
Bucco also wrote that Roxbury residents “were the ones suffering the consequences of the operations at the landfill and they expected the township to find a solution … The problems at the landfill, more than any other issue facing the township during this approximately three-year period, consumed the township’s resources.”
Because Roxbury Township is “the government representative of the residents that are directly impacted” at Fenimore, Bucco argued it is appropriate that Roxbury be allowed to intervene. Since the landfill is entirely in Roxbury, the township “has a strong interest in protecting the environmental aspects” of the site, he wrote, adding that barring Roxbury from the litigation means “township residents will be denied representation by the public body most responsible for the protection of their public health, safety and welfare.”
Again citing the welfare of Roxbury residents, Bucco told the court the DEP being a state agency, "is not in a position to adequately understand and represent the interests of the township and its residents. In fact, the township is the entity who responds to the daily complaints and issues that have accompanied defendant’s activities at the landfill.”