Roxbury Residents Worried About Health Risks Surrounding Fenimore Landfill


People living near the Fenimore Landfill in Roxbury believe their health is at risk. The state Department of Environmental Protection agreed that the landfill wasn’t being managed properly and took control of it in June. The owners have now sued in federal court claiming the seizure violated their constitutional rights and disrupted their efforts to clean up the site and convert it into a solar farm. Roxbury residents have spoken out against the actions at the landfill, citing health problems related to the site. Roxbury Environmental Action Center Executive Board Member Janet Lemma told NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider that residents are suffering and members of the DEP don’t know what they’re doing when it comes to remedying the situation.

Lemma said residents are having a lot of health problems related to hydrogen sulfide, or H2S, in addition to other gases that can’t be smelled in the air. She said symptoms include nosebleeds, congestion, asthma and headaches. “As the H2S gets worse, the symptoms seem to get worse,” she said.

A meeting last night was held in the respite center, which the township of Roxbury set up to allow people to leave their homes and get away from the hydrogen sulfide when the levels are high. Lemma explained that there are monitors to detect when the levels of the gas are elevated.

Frustrations among residents are with the owners of the landfill and the state. “The state is the one who let the owners come in and do what they did. So first and foremost, that’s our major concern. And now that we have passed this law, the state now has the right to take over the landfill, which they have. The problem is, I don’t think they know what they’re doing any more than the previous owner knew what he was doing,” Lemma said.

According to Lemma, DEP officials have had a few ideas that they’ve put into place, but are now saying they aren’t working. “We can tell by the H2S gas that is still emanating from the landfill that they’re absolutely not working,” she said.

Hydrogen sulfide is known to be dangerous. Lemma said it’s found in sewers and workers must wear protective gear to work near it.

Lemma said DEP officials haven’t been releasing much information. “They feel that they are doing what they’re supposed to be doing by remediating the smell,” she said.

Officials have tried several approaches, none of which have been successful, according to Lemma. “It’s kind of a trial and error and it’s a trial and error with people’s lives.”

As new approaches are tried, Lemma said residents continue to suffer. “The town’s trying to do the best that they can by opening the respite center, but … their resources are completely diminished by having to pay for everything they’ve had to pay for for this.”

  • Joseph Shadel for Council

    Great job Janet for speaking on the behalf of all of Roxbury. It is a shame that this situation has gotten to this stage. But those responsible for letting this happen need to be held accountable and that starts right in our own town. There was a whole lot more that our town officials could have done many years ago when the NJDEP first issued the permit but nothing was done. It is nice though that residents at least have a place to go to get away from the affects of the harmful gases but why did anyone allow it to get to this point? We didn’t have to allow the dump to reopen but town officials apparently didn’t know any better. It’s time for a change come election day this November.

  • Karen

    It’s truly surreal that our once lovely town has been turned into a persistent health hazard. It simply brings you to tears when you see the complete injustice which has occurred. Some how, some way we need to remedy this — and fast!

  • Maureen

    In the 90’s when developing around the landfill was first suggested, the council decided against advice of their own Dept of Health to take a gamble that the whole risk was worth some pay to play money for other township objectives. They never disclosed the landfill existed to buyers of the new houses nor did the developer,nor did the realtors, nor did the original residents when reselling. The current residents are paying the price for the criminal acts of township, DEP, and Governor Christie for allowing this to happen to their innocent constituents. Our lives are irreversably changed for the forseeable future and we need justice now. The government of NEW JERSEY should admit tthey were wrong and HAUL IT ALL OUT OF THERE!!!!