By Senior Correspondent Desirée Taylor
Instead of the normal first day of school jitters, students and parents in Roxbury Township are more concerned about the stench coming from the nearby Fenimore Landfill.
“We virtually live our life by the direction of the wind, where the smell is going to be. It makes me decide where my children can play, how I’m going to drive out of the development, what roads I’m going to take so that I don’t have to expose my children to this smell,” said parent Linda Keane.
“The smell has now permeated, come into my home so we have it in our home all the time so we can’t escape it outside and we can’t come inside. And now it’s in my water. It’s totally infected my pipes and in my water so I have the smell coming from there,” said Shannon Caccavella.
There are about 4,000 students in the district. Nearly 1,000 of them live within a half mile of the landfill. Caccavella believes the hydrogen sulfide gas coming from the site is causing her daughter to have headaches.
“She started having migraine headaches. And we were unsure of the cause, so we went through all the CAT scans, all these tests. And there’s nothing wrong with her. And the doctor says that it has to be environmental, and when we started the ball rolling about what’s going on, we realized that it was hydrogen sulfide that was causing her headaches,” Caccavella said.
School Superintendent Patrick Tierney wrote a letter to state officials expressing his concerns. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection has taken over the landfill from a private owner. The agency is monitoring hydrogen sulfide levels at the site, which have on several occasions exceeded the minimum risk level.
Residents get updates on smartphones or computers via the township website. But critics say there aren’t enough monitors and they claim they have malfunctioned on occasion. The New Jersey Department of Health posted a fact sheet on its website. It says “hydrogen sulfide has not been shown to cause cancer in humans,” but it also acknowledges that “reactions to the odor itself may trigger symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, sleep disturbance, loss of appetite and headache.”
“We recently put out an updated fact sheet and as of right now — all the data that we have available to us — there’s no reason there should be any long-term health effects,” said Health Commissioner Mary O’Dowd.
But critics are questioning that data. And some residents are demanding answers now.
“We want it remedied. We want the smell to go away. We want Roxbury restored to where it was before the DEP allowed this to happen to our town,” Janet Lemma said.
While the DEP works to address the problem, some residents want financial assistance to relocate until the area is remediated.