ROXBURY, NJ – It is likely to be another two years before the equipment burning away smelly hydrogen sulfide at the former Fenimore Landfill is replaced with a more passive “iron sponge” system, according to a town official.
That’s three years later than originally planned. Town officials who toured the former dump in 2016 said, at the time, the equipment switch was probably going to happen in 2017.
Nevertheless, Roxbury Councilman Fred Hall – who visited the site several weeks ago – said he’s happy with how the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is handling Fenimore.
“We took a tour of the place,” Hall told his council colleagues recently. “We saw pretty much everything we needed to see. Things are getting a lot better. They’re not quite where they need to be - we’re about two years away from going to that other technology -but there’s nothing to be concerned about. We think things are going in the right direction.”
The long-dormant dump became a Roxbury nightmare in 2012 when, having been partially reopened to accept construction and demolition waste - supposedly as fill material to build a solar panel farm – it began to spew hydrogen sulfide (H2S) that blanketed large parts of Roxbury with a putrid, rotten egg smell.
The DEP seized the property in 2013, capped the rotting waste and installed the current gas collection and treatment system. That high-tech “scrubber and oxidizer” equipment has been running since December of that year.
Hall said the scrubbing and oxidizing has been effective. “They had seven different (gas) extraction wells,” he said. “Things have gotten so much better up there that more than half of them are shut down. So they’re only extracting out of about half of those.”
The DEP estimates the amount of gas in the landfill has decreased by 75 percent since 2013, according to Hall.
He said the state will soon be seeking bids on the iron sponge filters that will eventually replace the scrubber and oxidizer. He said the iron sponge filter equipment will be much smaller than the current machinery.
“It looks like a container on the back of large tractor trailer,” Hall said. “They are going out to bid in the fall for four of these units … But it’s going to be two years before they can implement them.”
Hall said the DEP will be running the iron sponges and the scrubber and oxidizer simultaneously to make sure the new equipment works. “They are going to put it in and test it for an extended period of time while they have the oxidizer and scrubber running at the same time,” he said. “It’s a good idea. Frankly, I think they’re doing a pretty good job.”
Hall also said the state will soon be replacing the air monitoring devices that were installed near Fenimore to track levels of H2S reaching nearby communities.
Meanwhile, Below the Surface
But H2S is not the only unwanted material emanating from Fenimore. Groundwater contamination from waste dumped at the unregulated site for decades has also been detected.
There are several groundwater monitoring wells around the property. These wells showed levels of dioxane, benzene, arsenic and ammonia in the groundwater.
Hall said he asked the DEP why the township has not received a water quality report in a while. The tests are supposed to be conducted annually.
“Their answer was they were done last fall,” Hall said. The township has yet to receive the test results, but Hall said “I’m not expecting anything (bad) to be quite honest with you. They (the test results) were getting better and better all the time.”
Contacted by TAPinto Roxbury, DEP spokesman Larry Hajna said the latest groundwater tests showed nothing serious
Bob Shultz, president of Roxbury Environmental Action Coalition (REACT), said the township should have pressed for the groundwater test results long ago. “Why wasn’t this information followed up upon from the township eight months ago?” he asked. “I feel like the township has just let this ball roll off the court.”