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New Jersey DEP seizes control of landfill

Acting on an order issued by New Jersey Commissioner Bob Martin, teams of Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) engineers and inspectors seized control of the Fenimore Landfill in Roxbury Township, Morris County, launching an emergency remediation project to protect the environment by controlling substances and odors emanating from the site.

The action came after Governor Christie signed legislation enabling the DEP to take control of old legacy landfills that pose an imminent threat to the environment. The Fenimore Landfill has plagued surrounding neighborhoods with staggering odors caused by repeated and continued elevated levels of hydrogen sulfide gas since November.

“The DEP has pursued every legal and administrative remedy available to us to eliminate the environmental and odor problems caused by the neglect of the property owner. I have directed our teams to move in immediately to take control of this landfill from the development firm that owns it but has allowed this problem to persist,” said Commissioner Martin.

The DEP is developing a long-term plan to control odors. Under the interim project, the DEP response team is working with a contractor to seal an 18 acre area of the landfill with an environmentally-safe and proven effective concrete-like vapor barrier known as Posi-Shell. In addition, gas-flare systems will be installed.

The DEP will constantly monitor hydrogen sulfide levels during this odor-control project, which is expected to take about three weeks. In the event that odors temporarily increase during disruption of property, the DEP will take immediate action to reduce levels through the use of temporary cover.

DEP engineers, inspectors and contractors entered the site in June to begin preparation work for short-term odor abatement efforts through the application of Posi-Shell, which is comprised of cement, polyester fibers and a setting agent. Posi-Shell is commonly used for erosion control and as daily and long-term cover for landfills. It is sprayed on wet and dries to the consistency of stucco. Dyes added to the material activate if they come in contact with landfill gases, helping to identify any potential leaks.

Solar spark flares are used frequently in conjunction with Posi-Shell. The flares are 8’ tall stacks that are connected to vents installed into the surface of the landfill to safely burn off gases. They utilize a solar-powered ignition system and blowers.

The order also allows for the future installation of a geomembrane cap with vegetative surface cover, a landfill gas management system and stormwater management and run-off controls.

Strategic Environmental Partners (SEP) acquired the Fenimore Landfill in 2010 with plans to cap the site so it could be developed as a solar farm. In May 2012, however, DEP issued a notice to terminate SEP’s authorization to cap the site because conditions of that authorization had not been met. Specifically, SEP had not installed the required gas-collection system, a leachate collection/treatment system or groundwater monitoring system. SEP also failed to open the required escrow fund and provide disclosure of sufficient funding for the project.

Last November, strong odors began permeating neighborhoods around the site.

The DEP investigated and found the odors to be from elevated emissions of hydrogen sulfide gas created by wet gypsum wallboard disposed at the landfill. Hydrogen sulfide, which smells like rotten eggs, is a colorless and flammable gas.

The emergency remediation work will be funded by the Sanitary Landfill Contingency Fund, established years ago to assist in the proper closure of landfills. The state, however, will seek cost recovery from SEP.

During the remediation, no further deliveries of any material may be made or accepted by SEP without permission from DEP. SEP is also prohibited from interfering with remediation efforts.

The new legislation signed by Governor Christie establishes requirements and controls for legacy landfills, which are landfills that ceased operations prior to 1982 and are therefore not subject to the state’s stringent landfill closure requirements. In addition to establishing an environmental standard for the emission of hydrogen sulfide from a legacy landfill, the legislation also enables the DEP to seek the voidance of any administrative consent order or other authorization if certain financial requirements are not met or if the owner of a legacy landfill makes material misrepresentations or commits fraud.