State orders agency to curb noxious fumes from Meadowlands landfill

State orders agency to curb noxious fumes from Meadowlands landfill

Source: https://www.northjersey.com, April 9, 2019
By: Scott Fallon

Environmental officials have ordered a state agency to curb elevated levels of a noxious gas wafting from the last operating landfill in the Meadowlands after already citing the agency for allowing sewage to be dumped there. (Video is below.)

This time, however, the culprit doesn’t appear to be wastewater. Instead, it’s likely coming from rotting pieces of drywall, which can emit hydrogen sulfide when wet.

The fumes have prompted a wave of criticism over how the Keegan Landfill in Kearny is managed, and has renewed calls for it to be closed.

The New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority is scheduled at its Thursday meeting to hire an environmental firm for $300,000 to monitor the air surrounding the Keegan Landfill for hydrogen sulfide under an order from the state Department of Environmental Protection.

“We firmly believe that it is unacceptable for our landfill to be disruptive or troublesome for its neighbors and the community that hosts it,” the commission said in a statement on its website.

But the commission has maintained that closing the landfill will not reduce the fumes — a position disputed by many nearby residents and officials. Residents living near the 110-acre dumping ground have been complaining for months about a strong odor of rotten eggs, as well as irritated eyes and burning throats.

“I don’t think anyone will be satisfied with a solution that goes only halfway,” Kearny Mayor Alberto Santos said. “Everyone knows what needs to be done here.”

The Keegan Landfill is a major source of revenue for the authority. It generated $17.7 million in tipping fees last year accepting mostly construction debris.

But at least on one occasion, the landfill accepted sewage waste while a DEP inspector was present.

The inspector filmed the dumping, which occurred on July 3. Santos obtained a copy of the video in January and posted it on social media, drawing outrage from residents, more than 100 of whom went to the authority’s meeting last month to voice their displeasure.

At the urging of residents, another DEP inspector visited the Keegan Landfill on March 1 and found readings of hydrogen sulfide just above the state standard of 30 parts per billion.

Air samples taken by a Kearny contractor also found elevated levels on 14 days since monitoring began in mid-February. The samples were taken almost 1,000 feet from the landfill at the town’s Department of Public Works yard, Santos said.

The DEP fined the agency $2,000 because of the fumes.

Breathing in low concentrations of hydrogen sulfide can cause irritation to the eyes, nose and throat along with difficulty breathing for some asthmatics, as well as headaches, fatigue and balance problems. It is also highly flammable.

Hydrogen sulfide produces a rotten egg smell even at low concentrations. It is emitted from wastewater treatment plants as well as landfills when organic waste such as food breaks down.

But the source at Keegan may be drywall, which emits the gas when bacteria break it down. The DEP told the authority to “minimize or eliminate” drywall made of gypsum.

Santos thinks that would be difficult, since the bulk of Keegan’s trash each day comes from construction sites.

“Considering the number of trucks each day and the impossibility of inspecting the contents of every load, I don’t think they would be able to eliminate every piece of drywall,” he said.

The DEP also ordered the authority to evaluate the material used to cover the garbage at Keegan, to properly compact the debris dumped there daily and to minimize how much of the landfill is being used at any one time.

The landfill was to be closed in June 2016. Plans called for it to be capped and turned into recreation fields for the town.

But Superior Court Judge Peter Bariso ruled in 2016 that the landfill can stay open because “its closure at this time would have drastic and deleterious effects on the surrounding communities and their taxpayers.”

The commission is adamant that Keegan will stay open despite the fumes.

“The microbial reactions that generate the gas from this buried waste will continue until the source of the sulfate has been depleted,” the commission said in a statement. “Therefore, closing the landfill will not solve the problem.”

Santos said that position will likely draw a large number of residents at the authority’s meeting this week.

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