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.”