Town will sue under ‘Environmental Rights Act,’ Santos says

Mayor, meanwhile, missed golden opportunity to speak with Murphy by skipping Union City Town Hall event last week

Despite actions taken by the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority to make it more difficult to do so, the Town of Kearny still plans to sue the State of New Jersey under the Environmental Rights Act in an effort to get the Keegan Landfill closed and permanently and impermeably capped, Mayor Alberto G. Santos said in a video he posted to Facebook on Thursday, March 28. In the process, however, the mayor missed a tremendous opportunity to get the governor’s ear — as he promised he would do — by not attending a Union City Town Hall meeting with the governor on March 25.

The closure of the Keegan, the mayor speculated on his video, would be similar to what occurred at the James Fenimore Landfill in Morris County. That landfill was permanently closed but unlike the Keegan, had been by a private operator.

The former owners/operators of that landfill face criminal charges — including theft by deception, according to published reports. Reports also say that landfill, which also had issues with hydrogen sulfide, went unregulated for more than 30 years. The NJDEP reportedly said that landfill ultimately had “a system to treat the hydrogen sulfide gases generated by the landfill. That stopped the smell.”

In his video, Santos explained how he’d like to see the Keegan closure go down — if it ever happens.

Impermeable caps on the Bergen Avenue landfill would ensure “no more rain water enters the landfill. It’s that rain water that causes the leachate and the gook that leads to the smells,” he said.

The landfill would then need to be “oxidized” and a treatment system would be put into place thereafter to capture the odors — “so we don’t smell it and over several years eliminates it (the odors). That’s what needs to be done,” the mayor said.

That process “takes years to do,” according to Santos. But none of this would be possible without the landfill’s permanent closure — something the mayor says Murphy could do “with the stroke of a pen.”

So the proposed lawsuit notwithstanding, the mayor again, last week, said he would call upon Murphy to shut the landfill down. He encouraged residents to again attend the next meeting of the NJSEA at 10 a.m., April 11, in Lyndhurst.

An Opportunity lost

Santos, meanwhile, missed a golden opportunity to get the governor’s attention when, on March 25, Murphy was in Union City (Hudson County) for a Town Hall-style event with residents. Despite the governor being just 6 miles away from Kearny and in the same county, Santos did not attend the event, even though several times in the last few weeks, he said he would grab the governor’s attention at local events the state’s CEO attended.

One local official did note, however, they believed Murphy would have ignored them and not call upon them for a question had he actually gone.

Back to the mayor’s video, Santos chastised the NJSEA on it again by reminding viewers there are other landfills in New Jersey that accept the same kind of debris the Keegan takes (legally.)

“They’re wrong,” Santos said. “At the meeting, they told residents it’s because of rain this landfill is now emitting more odors than it has in the past. Not true. We lived through Super Storm Sandy here and we, uh, experienced an outage during Sandy — and there were no odors like this. … So we know we’re not getting the straight story from the sports and exposition authority. There are other sites that take construction and demolition debris. But if New Jersey really wanted to address the solid-waste issue, they would adopt a stronger policy on recycling.

“There are recycling centers that can take this debris! … This landfill is generating $25 million and that is incredible — that is incredible.”

In a nearly 15-minute soliloquy the mayor posted to his personal Facebook page (he tagged nearly 10 media outlets in the video, but did not tag this agency), Santos went on to slam the NJSEA and its employees’ exorbitant salaries.

“The sports and exposition authority has some of the highest salaries in the state of New Jersey,” he said. “An executive director (former Assemblyman who used to represent Kearny Vincent Prieto) who makes $280,000 a year. A chief operating officer — they have that one, too — at $190,000 a year.”

He noted the strain these salaries cause to the Public Employees Retirement System, but Santos himself makes a combined government salary of $103,478 as mayor of Kearny and as clerk to the Hudson County Board of Chosen Freeholders — and he benefits from the very same retirement system from which NJSEA employees benefit.

Meanwhile, Santos concluded his video by slamming the state one last time.

“What kind of regime denies the truth when it comes to the air we breathe?” he asked. “There are certain principles at stake here and we have to fight for them. We’re fighting to close this landfill. We’re fighting the abuse of power. … (we’re fighting them) using eminent domain to preserve a revenue stream. They’re hiding the facts as to the health impacts of hydrogen sulfide from this landfill.”

Editor’s note: A reminder — the next meeting of the NJSEA takes place 10 a.m., Thursday, April 11, at One DeKorte Plaza, Lyndhurst. Meanwhile, what are your thoughts? Are you sick and do you believe it’s being caused by hydrogen sulfide? Do you know someone who is sick, potentially. from the effects of the Keegan? Are you tired of the odors? The Observer wants to hear from you. Send comments for publication to Be sure to leave a full name, your home town and phone number so we can verify your letter.


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Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.