Source: Law360, Janauary 16, 2013
By: Ama Sarfo
Odors emanating from a Roxbury, N.J., landfill that has battled with the state and a proposed class of residents are a nuisance, but not a health hazard, a court-appointed independent environmental expert said in a report Tuesday.
Following a request from Morris County Superior Court Judge Deanne M. Wilson, John Trela of TRC Cos. Inc. evaluated possible health effects from odors wafting from the Fenimore Landfill and found that although the odors are attributable to hydrogen sulfide, a potentially poisonous gas, current emissions aren’t a health threat.
“Although the measured hydrogen sulfide concentrations do not appear to be an imminent health threat to the residents of Roxbury Township, it is apparent that the hydrogen sulfide emissions from the landfill constitute a nuisance and are interfering with the residents’ use and enjoyment of their property and surrounding neighborhood,” the report said.
A “rotten egg” odor from the landfill has sparked hundreds of complaints and a lawsuit from residents accusing the landfill’s owner, Strategic Environmental Partners LLC, of negligence. While it has fought with SEP over other issues, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection has also accused the company of improper odor control.
Trela’s report says that meteorological data covering the past seven years show that no more than 4.5 percent of the time do winds blow from a northwestern direction that could carry gasses from the landfill to surrounding homes, and no more than 1 percent of the time do winds blow from an eastern direction that could carry gasses from the landfill to surrounding homes.
“Based upon the information that is currently available, it does not appear that the concentrations of hydrogen sulfide measured within Roxbury Township by [the] NJDEP are an imminent heath threat to the residents,” Trela said. “The odors are transient and are dependent upon wind direction.”
Trela also agreed with a Jan. 7 NJDEP report that calls on the landfill to adopt a gas mitigation plan that includes detailed procedures, a schedule of implementation, and a comprehensive ambient air monitoring program.
On Monday, SEP owner Richard Bernardi enacted an indefinite hiatus of trucks carrying fill material to the 102-acre site after Roxbury Schools Superintendent Patrick Tierney posted a Jan. 11 notice on the district’s website saying he told nursing staff to inform him immediately if any student believes he or she has become sick from landfill odors.
“We have opposed these actions and we have maintained our legal position because we believed it was the right thing to do,” Bernardi said in a letter. “However, when the Roxbury superintendent of schools makes this a matter involving children, it is time to take a step back.”
Bernardi also claimed that some residents have tried to interfere with trucks traveling to the site on local roads.
“It is clear that the anti-Fenimore sentiment has reached an unsafe level, and we have no interest in seeing this continue,” Bernardi said. “We hope that a temporary break from the trucks will alleviate some of the tension that has arisen regarding this project.”
An attorney for the residents did not immediately respond to requests for comment Wednesday.
The residents are represented by Daniel G.P. Marchese.
SEP is represented by Matthew Fredericks.
The cases are O’Brien v. Strategic Environmental Partners LLC, case number C-1-13; and Strategic Environmental Partners LLC v. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, case number C-50-12; both in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Morris County, Chancery Division.
–Additional reporting by Martin Bricketto. Editing by John Quinn.