Roxbury Residents Unhappy with DEP Plan to Cap Fenimore Landfill

By Briana Vannozzi

“My granddaughter has experienced for the last year and a half bloody noses and headaches practically on an every week basis,” said 45-year resident Victor Dean.

Talk to residents living near the Fenimore Landfill in Roxbury Township and stories like that seem to come up in every conversation. It’s the effect, they say, of toxic dioxin leaks into the air and water from the nearly 65-acre site. The state recently approved a $9.6 million contract to cap and remediate the site, but residents aren’t satisfied.

“It’s a solution that just basically puts a band-aid and it’s covering up all the material that was brought in post Sandy which is really the material that’s causing all the landfill gas and the hydrogen sulfide,” said Aaron Markworth, Roxbury resident and mechanical engineer.

The Department of Environmental Protection’s plan costs nearly $2 million more than originally projected. Members of a local activist group say the smell, like rotten eggs, was enough to make you sick.

“Last summer it was particularly bad and I would smell it every day on my way home from work and it would just come wafting down Route 46,” said Roxbury resident Phil Lane.

The DEP took over the site last year and installed a gas collection and burn-off system to cut down on emissions. And while residents say for the most part the smell is gone, they wonder what else is left and going undetected.

“Since there’s no testing equipment directly on the stack that’s burning all this material, we don’t really know what’s coming out of there,” said Bob Schultz.

Schultz is the president of REACT, Roxubury Environmental Action Coalition and is asking the state for three things.

“Our first thing is that we need to get core soil sampling and see what’s exactly in there, we need constant monitoring on the stack and the third thing and what we really want our end game is to truck the material out to a site that can handle this type of material,” he said.

Today the DEP said core sampling would not change the remedy to cap and dry out the landfill and removing the debris would be even worse. In a statement, spokesperson Larry Ragonese said, “excavating the Fenimore site would create a major environmental and health problem. Models developed by the DEP and its consulting engineers show that excavation would likely release large quantities of H2S, which would have a devastating effect on the landfill neighbors and could negatively impact as many as two dozen surrounding towns.”

Neighbors here also talk of cancer clusters that so far have not been proven to be caused by the landfill, but are suspected so. One doctor said the only solution is to move.

“He said, ‘I suggest you pack your family up and leave.’ When you’re there 45 years, four generations, I can’t sell my house. Where am I gonna go?” asked Dean.

Tomorrow the residents of Roxbury will take their pleas to Trenton one more time for a rally down the street from the state DEP offices calling for legislative support to stop the capping.