Government

Landfill Tainted Roxbury Stream Keeps Getting Cleaner

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Green dot shows site of Ledgewood Brook water test Credits: Raritan Headwaters Association
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HGMI score of Ledgewood Brook Credits: Raritan Headwaters Association
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ROXBURY, NJ – The water quality of Ledgewood Brook, a stream near the former Fenimore Landfill, has improved dramatically in the years following the state’s capping of the problematic dump, according to a water quality watchdog group.

The purity of Ledgewood Brook was tested last June by the non-profit Raritan Headwaters Association (RHA) and determined to be “good.” The RHA rates stream health using a scale called the High Gradient Macroinvertebrate Index (HGMI) which tests for the existence of tiny crustaceans, worms and insects that die off first when streams are polluted.

Ledgewood Brook scored 48.47 when tested last summer, according to the RHA. That was markedly better than its 2014 tally of 32.71 and an improvement of about five points compared to 2016.

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The brook had an HGMI score of almost 63 in 2007.

In 2015, the RHA said its 2014 study results showed an “alarming trend” of diminished vitality in the stream. It blamed the findings on activity at the formerly dormant Fenimore site.

Having been left alone for decades, the property became the scene of significant tree removal, bulldozing and other erosion inducing activity in 2012. That’s when Strategic Environmental Partners began site work for a solar panel farm, a venture that eventually failed when material dumped on the land began rotting and spewing noxious hydrogen sulfide over large areas of Roxbury.

The state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) seized the property in 2013, capped the putrid fill material and erected high-tech equipment that continues to burn off the smelly gas.

RHA Water Quality Program Manager Angela Gorczyca said it seems apparent the cessation of construction at the site and the cap installed by the state is Ledgewood Brook regain its vitality.

“We did notice that, after they capped the landfill, the stream improved from fair to good,” she said. “It isn’t excellent, so there is still room for improvement at the site. We think that, because there was a reduction in soil erosion, the stream is getting a chance to recover.”

Ledgewood Brook originates on top of Mooney Mountain and drains into Drake’s Brook. Because it is a primary headwater stream, Ledgewood Brook should have an “excellent” HGMI score. To hit that level a stream needs a score of at least 63.

“Every storm washes out some of that sediment,” Gorczyca said. “The habitat for macroinvertebrates is improving, but there is still a lot of sediment in that stream, unfortunately.”

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